Melanoma is a cancer that starts in the DNA of melanocytes; the cells responsible for your hair and skin’s colour. When their DNA is damaged, it causes the cells to grow uncontrollably leading to a malignant tumour.
The damage can be inherited through genetic mutations, but it’s often accumulated over time as a result of environmental factors like UV radiation.
Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) from the sun and sunbeds plays a leading role in the development of melanoma and is the most preventable cause of this disease. Experts estimate about 90% of melanomas are associated with severe UV exposure and sunburns over a lifetime. (more)
You can learn more about the Basics of Melanoma here, or scroll to the bottom of the page for other suggested reading.
The lifetime risk of melanoma for Canadian men is now 1 in 74. For Canadian women, it’s 1 in 90. In comparison, the lifetime risk of melanoma for Americans in 1930 was 1 in 1500.
Melanoma is one of a handful of cancers where the incidence in Canadians continues to increase.
The death rate for men with melanoma continues to rise.
Up to 70% of all melanomas are first identified by the patient themselves or close family members. (more)
That’s why it’s so important for you to check your skin and watch for any signs that this cancer might be developing.
Follow what dermatologists call the Ugly Duckling Rule – if you notice a mole or skin lesion that looks out of place or feels different from the others, get some medical advice.
If you’re going to be checking your moles regularly to keep an eye on them (which we hope you are) there are several common kinds of changes that are often associated with the development of melanomas. It’ll be helpful to familiarize yourself with the ABCDEs of Melanoma, so that you know what changes should definitely sound the alarm.
Checking your own moles is simple and straightforward – just download our How To Check instructions to get started.
Remember, some people are more likely to develop melanoma because of certain risk factors – but anyone can be affected by this disease. People with no risk factors, and those with darker skin, can also get melanoma and should be checking regularly too.
The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund also recommends these sites for information on melanoma and related topics.