Health: New skin cancer warning: not all suspect moles are dark

New skin cancer warning: not all suspect moles are dark Email New skin cancer warning: not all suspect moles are dark ...

New skin cancer warning: not all suspect moles are dark

Email New skin cancer warning: not all suspect moles are dark

Updated October 11, 2017 20:00:11

Dr Tony Dicker uses a magnifier to check a patient for melanomas Photo: Dr Tony Dicker checks a patient for melanomas (ABC News) Related Story: New therapies 'basically stop melanoma in its tracks' Related Story: Not all melanoma caused by sun exposure, study finds Map: Australia

Be warned â€" you may have more potential skin cancers than you think.

Key point s:

  • Cancer Council Australia announced changes to its melanoma diagnosis guidelines for doctors
  • Asked to add the EFG assessment â€" looking at elevation, firmness and growth
  • About 30 Australians are diagnosed with the skin cancer every day

Until now, public health messages about skin cancer haven't warned about paler, less obvious lesions.

"Typically, a lot of people assume, wrongly, that melanomas are associated with dark pigmented moles," said Chris McMillan, the CEO of Cancer Council Queensland.

But research has shown that risks missing a significant number of potential lethal melanomas.

"Realistically, we find that 20 per cent of melanomas are pale-coloured lesions," Mr McMillan said.

Detection as easy as ABCD... EFG

Cancer Council Australia this week announced changes to its melanoma diagnosis guidelines for doctors.

The previous guidelines were based on the ABCD method, with doctors assessing asymmetry, border, colour and diameter.

But now they're being asked to also add the EFG assessment â€" looking at elevation, firmness and growth.

The guideline change means a change in public health messaging.

External Link: The dark side of tanning advertisement

A 2012 Cancer Council TV advertisement features an animation of a growing black melanoma, but Mr McMillan agrees that could be misleading.

"Those sort of scary images don't have a great effect," he said.

"A slightly tweaked message will be out there."

A near miss

Melbourne woman Rachel Angus had a near miss with a melanoma nine years ago.

Rachel Argus sitting on a chair in her dining room showing where she had a melanoma removed from her leg. Oct 2017 Photo: Rachel Argus shows where she had a melanoma removed from her leg (ABC News)

She pointed out a pink spot on her leg to her dermatologist during a routine skin check.

"He had a look at it and said 'oh, it doesn't look like anything at all, but we'll take it off just in case'," she said.

Close up of Rachel Argus' pale melanoma Photo: Rachel Argus' pale melanoma (Supplied: Rachel Argus)

Her dermatologist, Dr Tony Dicker, was shocked when the biopsy result showed the spot was a melanoma.

"It scares you," he said.

"You suddenly see these spots as doctor and you think, 'wow, I could easily miss this'."

Dr Dicker says the new guidelines are very useful.

"They get you thinking the right way about what you need to consider, which lumps and bumps to be concerned about," he said.

"It helps lead to the right diagnosis."

If it's changing, it needs checking

Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.

About 30 Australians are diagnosed with the skin cancer every day â€" and more than 1,000 people die of the disease each year.

There is evidence that decades of public health campaigns, such as Slip Slop Slap, are working.

TV still of the Cancer Council Queensland's Slip Slop Slap campaign. Photo: There is evidence that campaigns like this are working. (ABC News)

However, the incidence of melanomas is continuing to rise.

"The reason for that is that there's a very long latency period," the head of research at Cancer Council Queensland, Joanne Aitken, said.

"And it takes decades for a melanoma to develop â€" decades."

Which makes prevention vital.

"Change is the hallmark of cancer, and it's the hallmark of melanoma," Ms Aitken said.

"So things that are changing are things that people should be having checked."

Ms Angus is living proof of the importance of regular skin checks.

"If I hadn't have gone for the skin check-up, I would have died â€" that's just the bottom line," she said.

Topics: skin-cancer, health, cancer, australia

First posted October 11, 2017 18:05:32

Source: Google News

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