Have fun in the sun – but be safe. Being sun aware is more than avoiding sunburn (although that is a part
of it!) Cumulative excessive sun exposure – particularly at a young age – is a significant risk factor for
developing malignant melanoma.
What is malignant melanoma? It’s a form of cancer – but don’t be mislead into thinking that ‘since it’s
just skin cancer, they can just cut if off’. Melanoma is a highly aggressive skin cancer, which can quickly
spread beyond the skin. The five year survival rate for advanced malignant melanoma is only 15%. So
it’s no superficial or cosmetic problem.
Who is at risk?
• Those with fair skin and/or burn more easily
• Sunbed users and active tan seekers
• Those who have had childhood sunburn
• Those who have extended periods in the sun
• Mature or thin skinned people who can have their skin damaged more easily
• Those with more than 100 moles
• Those with a family history of malignant melanoma
As an osteopath I get to see a lot of people’s skin during examinations. I trained in the early detection of
malignant melanoma, so that I am more equipped to identify suspicious skin problems that need review
by a skin specialist.
What can you do to help identify a potentially suspicious skin issue? (Hint – they don’t always look like
moles!). The first set of rules are: if you have any rapid change in your skin, get it seen.
If you have an area of
skin that simply won’t heal, continues to weep or continually crusts over, get it seen.
If you have a blistering or ulcerated looking spot on your skin, get it seen.
If you develop a mole on the sole of your foot or under a nail, on your genitals, on your tongue or on your eyeball – get it seen.
If you have a mole that starts to change, or grows rapidly, get it seen.
There is a handy aide de memoire for considering whether a mole might be suspicious:
A – Asymmetry – when a mole is not a neat circle, but has an irregular shape
B – Border – a mole that has a border that is irregular or blurry or crusty
C – Colour – moles that are darker or black are more suspicious. If you have a normal brown mole that
has a part of it that turns black, it should get seen
D – Diameter – generally a mole that is larger than a pencil rubber is more suspicious than a smaller one,
especially if it is growing.
E – Evolving – any spot or mole that changes is extremely suspicious
E – Elevated – an elevated bump of any colour
F – Firm – a hard nodule that is even in shape
G – Growing – any lump or bump that is growing
How do you reduce your (and your children’s) risk? Think Slip, Slap, Slop, Slide and Shade.
Slip on some long clothing to cover your skin.
Slop on Suncream (UVA symbol with min 4 stars)
Slap on a hat.
Slide on Sunnies
Shade yourself from the sun
Enjoy your summer holidays knowing you’re getting both the benefits of being in the sun (and having a
good time) and are being safe during all those smiles 🙂
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