Melanoma arises from cells in the skin (melanocytes) which produce a brown pigment (melanin), the substance which gives skin its colour.
- is the least common form of skin cancer but is the most deadly
- if untreated, melanoma cells spread quickly to other parts of the body and form secondary cancers
- appears as a new spot, or an existing spot, freckle or mole that changes colour, size or shape
- usually has an irregular or smudgy outline and is more than one colour (brown, black, red, white and/or light grey)
- grows over weeks to months, anywhere on the body (not just in places that get a lot of sun)
In 2010, there were 1,452 deaths attributed to melanoma in Australia.2.
Melanoma has a high relative 5 year survival rate, with over 90% of people alive 5 years after their initial diagnosis1.
Early detection is important for successful treatment of melanoma. People, particularly anyone aged 40 years or over, should check their own skin regularly and seek medical advice immediately if they notice any changes. Those at high risk of melanoma may need a regular check from their GP or specialist dermatologist3.
For further information on types of skin cancer and on how to check for skin changes, see the Australasian College of Dermatologists website.
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2010). Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2010. AIHW cat no. 56.
2Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012). Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012. AIHW cat no 70.
3 Cancer Council Australia. Screening and early detection of skin cancer position statement.