The month of June is Men’s health month and this week is Men’s Health week. We have already done a blog this month on ceramides which can help men keep their skin soft, smooth and luminous and one on how to avoid razor bumps.

But a deadly serious side of men’s health (or anyone’s skin health for that matter) is melanoma skin cancers.

  1. Unfortunately, Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.
  2. It is estimated that one Aussie will die EVERY FOUR HOURS from melanoma.
  3. It is the third most common cancer in men in Australia.
  4. Research shows Queensland men over 45 are two thirds more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than women.
  5. Men are three times more likely to die from melanoma.

Let’s digest those statistics for a moment. And let’s reflect on the fact that skin cancer and melanoma will not go away just because we are dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic. Dermatologists in Melbourne (and indeed Australia) are all too familiar with skin cancers including melanomas. Skin checks will be a part of every dermatologists working day. So it is important to consider having your skin checked and keeping up with annual skin checks if you have skin cancer risk factors.

Melanoma skin cancer is actually a pigment problem. It is a cancer of the pigment cells (melanocytes) in the skin. Melanoma treatment most commonly involves just surgical removal of the skin cancer.

Chroma Dermatology is honoured that Dr. Sarah Shen has now joined the dermatology team at Chroma. Dr Shen has obtained a Master of Philosophy in the research of high-risk melanomas at the Victorian Melanoma Service at the Alfred Hospital. This work has been published locally and internationally. We thought we should ask her a few questions about melanoma. Here are here answers:

What do melanomas look like?

Melanomas can take on various shapes and forms. They can be a long-standing mole or freckle that has changed in shape, colour or size or be a new spot altogether. Although most are pigmented (dark in colour), some can look rather innocuous with lighter hues, and some can even be itchy or tender.

What are risk factors for developing melanoma?
Australia has one of the highest rates of melanoma worldwide. Although statistics can vary from year to year, approximately, 1 in 14 males and 1 in 22 females will develop melanoma in their lifetime.

There are a number of things that can increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma. Here are a few: fair skin, blistering sunburns, lifetime cumulative sun exposure, past history and family history of melanoma, being immunosuppressed, are some of these risk factors.

Why are men more likely to die from melanoma than women?
There is still much to be learnt about the discrepancy in health outcomes between men and women when it comes to melanoma.

So far what we know men tend to have melanomas that behave more aggressively than those found in females. This includes a type of melanoma called nodular melanoma that not only behave aggressively but also can at times appear deceptively harmless. Sometimes these melanomas may even look like a pimple!

We also know that health seeking behaviours differ between men and women (that is, men may be less inclined to seek attention for their health concerns than women), and this is also thought to contribute to poorer melanoma survival rates in men.

How can men protect against the development of melanoma?
Men (and women!), can reduce their chance of getting melanomas by being vigilant, sunsmart and well-informed.

Regular self-skin checks is a good way to catch any suspicious spots. A simple way to remember what to look for is the ABCDE rule (A for a mole that is asymmetrical, B for an irregular border, C is for variety of colours, D is diameter greater than 6mm and E for evolution).

A less well-known but equally important mnemonic is EFG, which was developed for speedy detection of nodular melanomas (E for elevation, F for firm to touch and G for growing).

Of course, sun protection (slip, slop, slap, seek, slide) is paramount and seeing your doctor promptly about any spots of concern can ensure timely detection of skin cancers.

Does a person’s risk of melanoma change if they have a parent or sibling with melanoma?
Yes. Having a first degree relative with melanoma increases a person’s risk by 2-fold!

Can anyone develop a melanoma skin cancer?
Unfortunately no ethnic group is immune to melanoma. Patients with pigmented skin tones can also develop melanomas. In African skin for example, melanomas are more common on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

How do I know if I need to get checked?
If you have any suspicions about a mole, a blemish or a bump on your skin, or a family history of melanoma or multiple moles, it is best to have your skin checked by a dermatologist.

We would like to thank Dr. Shen for her insights into those questions. We trust that men, this Men’s Health Month, will take this opportunity to check their skin and get their skin professionally checked too.

The information contained in this blog post is intended as a guide only and should not substitute seeking medical attention. Please see your healthcare provider for more information on suitability of products, treatments or procedures.