What is melanoma? Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Sometimes the melanoma develops on the ‘normal’ skin, sometimes it arises from a birthmark. Most birthmarks are normal. There is therefore usually no cause for concern. In recent years, however, melanoma has become more common, especially in Australia. There may be a connection with the sun’s burning of the skin and the development of melanoma.
Especially in people who were often sunburned as children, the risk seems to be higher. The increase in melanoma occurs mainly in Caucasians and especially in people with fair skin. Melanoma is most common on the trunk in men and more on the legs in women. However, the melanoma also occurs on areas of skin that never get to the sun.
See also, How to choose sunscreen with skin type
Usually melanomas arise from pre-existing moles. Early features, or ‘alarms’, can include:
- Irregular growth of a pre-existing birthmark
- Discoloration of pre-existing moles
- Different colors at a birthmark with blue and gray tones
- An itchy or stinging feeling at the site of a birthmark
- Ulcers, bleeding and / or crusting at the site of a birthmark
- A red area or base of a birthmark
- At a small distance from the birthmark brown-purple other spots
- White-gray or pink areas on the birthmark
Ultimately, the diagnosis can only be made with certainty by removing the birthmark. This is usually done by a specialist such as a dermatologist or a surgeon. He will check the birthmark and if necessary remove it under local anesthesia. This piece of skin is then placed under the microscope to know exactly whether or not it is suspicious. After the mole has been removed, the skin will heal normally with a few stitches, just like with a small injury.
How does melanoma develop?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Sometimes a melanoma develops on ‘normal’ skin, sometimes it arises from a birthmark. In recent years, melanoma has become increasingly common, especially in Australia (especially Queensland). There may be a connection between the development of melanoma and the burning of the skin by the sun.
Is it serious and what can you expect?
Melanoma is a type of cancer. If melanoma is diagnosed, an operation will follow and in case of metastases, chemotherapy (cytostatics or immunotherapy) may follow. Prognosis depends on the thickness and extent of the melanoma.
When to go to the doctor?
If you suspect melanoma, it is best to consult your doctor. Most moles are benign. A very small minority is malignant. If there is malice, it can be serious. Usually there is no cause for alarm. If the doctor wants to have the melanoma examined more closely, he will refer you.
What can you do about it yourself?
Birthmarks on their own are harmless. Most mole changes are harmless. But if the following ‘alarm signals’ occur, it is wise to take them to the doctor. It is wise to regularly inspect your skin yourself and to ‘get to know’ your moles. Then if changes occur, get there early.
General advice and precautions
In the information leaflets ‘In de zon’ and ‘Zonnebrand’ you will find more information about safe tanning. (Too much) Ultraviolet radiation is bad for the skin. Burning the skin is not only painful, but also bad for the skin in the long term. This is even more so for small children. So enjoy the sun, but don’t get too crazy.
Keep in mind the ten golden rules for enjoyable, but also sensible tanning:
- Enjoy the sun, but take care of your skin
- Don’t differentiate between ultraviolet rays from the real sun or from solar equipment. Neither does your skin
- When outside, wear a sun hat or visor and clothing that doesn’t let the sun through
- Seek shade instead of full sun, especially between noon and 3 pm
- If you go out in the sun, lubricate the uncovered skin with an anti-sunscreen, do not apply too thinly!
- Get your skin used to the sun gradually and avoid sunburn
- Follow the instructions for use of solar equipment carefully
- Leave tanning and the use of solar equipment to people over fifteen years of age and with not too sensitive skin
- If the skin reacts strangely, such as rash, itching, or burning, immediately stop sunbathing and consult a doctor
- With some skin conditions ultraviolet radiation does not help, with others it is not, ask your general practitioner or skin doctor for information.
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