Spotlight on Melanoma

Melanoma Facts and Statistics

  • Australia has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world
  • One person is diagnosed with melanoma every half an hour
  • One person dies from melanoma every 5 hours
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39 year olds

    Research is making a difference

    Over the past five years, the use of surgery plus additional treatments has significantly extended life expectancy in people with advanced disease (where the melanoma has spread to other organs). These treatments include targeted therapies (modifying the actions of specific genes) and immunotherapies (modifying the actions of the immune system). Radiotherapy can also reduce recurrence rates.

    In a recent MIA-led trial, researchers have made a major breakthrough by tripling the life expectancy for some advanced melanoma patients. However many others are not responding to new treatments and further research is vital.


    How do I protect my skin?

    Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light causes 95% of melanoma. The best way to prevent melanoma is to protect your skin from the sun by following the five sun safe rules:

    • Seek shade, especially in the hottest part of the day
    • Wear sun-protective clothing that covers your back,   shoulders, arms and legs
    • Wear a broad-brimmed hat
    • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50+ every 2 hours and after swimming or exercise
    • Wear wrap-around sunglasses


    How do I check myself for melanoma?

    The first symptom of a melanoma is usually the appearance of a new spot, or a change in an existing freckle or mole. The change may be in size, shape or colour and is normally noticed over several weeks or months.

    The ABCDE guidelines provide a useful way to monitor your skin and detect the early signs of melanoma. Please note that this is just a guide and melanoma may present with different characteristics. This is why regular skin checks from a professional are so important. 

    Please seek expert advice if you notice any of the following:

    • A is for ASYMMETRY:

      One-half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.

    • B is for BORDER irregularity:

      The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.

    • C is for COLOUR variation:

      The colour is not the same all over, but may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.

    • D is for DIAMETER:

      The area is larger than 6 mm (about the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.

    • E is for EVOLVING:

      Changes in size, shape, colour, elevation, or another trait (such as itching, bleeding or crusting).

      This last point is likely the strongest of all of the warning signs


    How do I make sure I don't miss anything?

    • Stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room
    • Start at the top and work your way down your body
    • Begin by using a brush or hair dryer to part your hair into sections so that you can check your scalp
    • Move to your face and neck, not forgetting your ears, nostrils and lips
    • Be sure to check both the top and underneath of your arms - don’t forget your fingernails
    • As you move down your body don't forget to check places where the sun doesn't shine! Melanoma can be found in places that do not have exposed skin
    • Ask a partner or family member to check your scalp and back

    The best way to monitor changes on your skin is by taking photographs every few months and comparing them to identify any changes. React quickly if you see something growing and/or changing.