The most dangerous type of skin cancer in New Zealand is melanoma. More people die from this skin disease than any other. This is not a common form of skin cancer and the chances of developing it increase as a person ages. People of all ages, however, can develop this type of skin cancer.
Melanoma involves the cells of the body responsible for skin pigment. They are called melanocytes. People who have light coloured skin and eyes and who live at high altitude or in sunny climates have a higher incidence of the disease.
The most common type of melanoma is superficial spreading melanoma. It usually presents as flat or irregularly shaped brown or black patches. Nodular melanoma is usually raised and either bluish-brown or blue-black in colour. Large, flat or tan patches appear most often on the skin of the elderly that has been damaged by the sun. This is called Lentigo maligna. The last type of melanoma is acral lentiginous melanoma. This is the least common type.
Using tanning devices and experiencing one or more blistering sunburns in your youth can increase your chances of developing melanoma in your lifetime. Likewise, there seems to be a genetic factor at work as you are more susceptible to the disease if you have a family member who has had it.
If you have a large number of moles on your body, it is important to have them mapped by a dermatologist so any changes can be noted. People should examine their moles from time to time to be sure that they have not changed in size, colour, or symmetry. If edges are not smooth or the mole has begun to change, you should have a doctor examine it.
If melanoma is found, the mole and the area surrounding it must be surgically removed for examination. Often, melanoma can spread to surrounding lymph nodes. Treatment for melanoma can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation treatments. Early detection is vital with this type of cancer. If it is allowed to spread to the organs, it usually cannot be cured.
Book an appointment with MoleMap today if you have concerns about melanoma. Early detection and treatment is vital.