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Skin cancer's secrets unveiled
news.com.au ^ | May 8, 2003 | World exclusive by Jen Kelly

Posted on 05/07/2003 10:54:41 AM PDT by HuntsvilleTxVeteran

WORLD-first Melbourne research into a little-known but deadly skin cancer could save thousands of lives.

Australia has the highest rate of melanomas in the world / AP

Up to 350 Australians die a year because of this cancer, which begins as a tiny pink pimple-like tumour.

But breakthrough research is set to shake up how the public and doctors check for melanomas.

Alfred hospital doctors found that nodular melanomas accounted for less than 15 per cent of melanoma cancers but caused up to 70 per cent of the deadliest type, called deep melanomas.

Most people look only for irregular-shaped brown/black spots.

But the research shows the pimple-like melanoma is the most dangerous.

These are often missed at the start – when survival rates are highest – because people have been taught to focus on common melanomas.

Just one severe case of sunburn can cause a nodular melanoma, which can appear anywhere on the body, often the head or neck. It grows much faster than other melanomas, so short delays in treatment can be fatal.

The Alfred hospital has set up a website to help patients tell normal lumps from nodular melanomas.

Almost half of people with nodular melanomas left undetected until they are deep – thicker than 3mm – will die. If detected early, when thinner than 1mm, the survival rate is 95 per cent.

Study co-author Associate Professor John Kelly said the discovery would save many lives if people followed the advice.

"Worldwide, thousands of lives; and in Australia, if it worked perfectly, we're talking 300, 350 lives a year," said Professor Kelly, head of the Alfred's Victorian Melanoma Service.

"It won't be perfect of course but that's the potential. That's the target."

Nodular melanomas are raised from the start.

They are usually red or pink, round or oval, and grow over months.

The Alfred today launches a campaign to alert the public to the dangers and features of nodular melanomas.

Doctors will receive the information through the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the National Divisions of General Practice.

Many GPs cut out melanomas themselves, without referring to a specialist, so training them to spot nodular melanomas is crucial to saving lives.

The research was sparked because Alfred doctors noticed melanoma deaths had not dropped despite massive awareness campaigns.

"In spite of all the advances in early diagnosis, death rates had risen over the last 40 years progressively," Professor Kelly said.

"We've done a very good job detecting common melanomas early, and there's great public awareness, and very good awareness among not only doctors but health care professionals in general.

"But nodular melanomas are clearly a different problem, and that needs to be addressed."

He said they made up 10 to 15 per cent of all melanomas, but accounted for 60 to 70 per cent of high-risk melanomas. High-risk melanomas, or deep melanomas, are those thicker than 3mm, and are the most life-threatening.

"Nodular melanoma is not being detected early. They look different to what we've generally been teaching people," he said.

Australia has the highest rate of melanomas in the world, with 7000 to 8000 found a year.

About 1000 are nodular melanomas and up to 350 will cause death.

About 800 Australians die a year from all types of melanoma.

Professor Kelly said about half of nodular melanomas would become deep, and about 45 per cent of people with deep melanoma would die.

Two Alfred hospital studies revealing the dangers of nodular melanomas have been published in Archives of Dermatology and the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Nodular melanomas can grow to a dangerous thickness in as little as two months, so anyone with a suspect lump for longer than a month is urged to see a GP.

Cancer Council Victoria director Professor David Hill yesterday welcomed the discovery.

"We are lucky in Australia and Victoria to have some of the leading skin cancer researchers in the world, and Professor Kelly is one of them," Professor Hill said.

"This is an important insight to the way in which people and their doctors can become aware of a dangerous form of skin cancer."

Net link: www.alfred.org.au/departments/victorianmelanoma service.html

Or www.sunsmart.com.au


TOPICS: Breaking News; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: cancer; melanoma; research; skincancer; studies
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1 posted on 05/07/2003 10:54:42 AM PDT by HuntsvilleTxVeteran
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To: HuntsvilleTxVeteran
A Dahn-undah BTT. We could always recognize the long-time Aussie Navy Warrants - had half their ears amputated due to skin cancer. It's 'ot dahn theah...
2 posted on 05/07/2003 10:56:51 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill
It's amazing that there are still a large number of people who don't take melanoma seriously. I get teased a lot at work (I work outdoors) for applying sunblock several times a day. My coworkers seem to find something effeminate about it. Ironically, most of these guys don't smoke because of cancer concerns, but then mock me for religously wearing sunblock.
3 posted on 05/07/2003 11:07:08 AM PDT by Welsh Rabbit
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To: Billthedrill
Same problem here in AZ. Skin cancer is high because of low humidity.
4 posted on 05/07/2003 11:07:45 AM PDT by TenthAmendmentChampion (Free! Read my historical romance novels online at http://Writing.Com/authors/vdavisson)
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To: Billthedrill
That reminds me...I have an appointment with my skin-cancer Doc this Friday....
5 posted on 05/07/2003 11:15:52 AM PDT by Cyber Liberty ( 2003, Ravin' Lunatic since 4/98)
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To: Welsh Rabbit
I'm one of those who tan naturally so I never worried about sunblock (except for my face and neck). My arms and legs stay brownish even through the winter and never burn. Of course, I don't spend hours sitting out in the sun either except maybe the three or four days a summer that I go to the beach (and then I do use sunblock on everything). Can one get melanoma just by routine exposure to the sun or does one have to be actually burned to be in danger?
6 posted on 05/07/2003 11:21:33 AM PDT by SamAdams76 (California wine beats French wine in blind taste tests. Boycott French wine.)
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To: Welsh Rabbit
It's serious business, all right. One of my colleagues just got back from a Caribbean cruise - there was a "swimsuit optional" deck whereon whale-like human beings were turning pasty blubber to scarlet without even the formality of basting. She said it reminded her of a Hieronymus Bosch painting...and that cancer specialists could have made a killing leaving their business cards scattered about.

Personally, I'm melanin-challenged (the result of my ancestors being cave-dwelling Troglodytes and Irishmen) and Mister SunBlock is my gooood buddy, even in Seattle.

7 posted on 05/07/2003 11:25:27 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: SamAdams76
Sam, i had squamous cell taken off my nose last summer. the doc told me that with my irish type skin/hair, i would probably never get a melanoma. i could be wrong, but i think the melanoma doesn't care about skin type. i've typed reports where girls in their early 20s have had melanoma. Be sure and keep the sun screen on those babies.
8 posted on 05/07/2003 11:28:34 AM PDT by libbylu
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To: HuntsvilleTxVeteran
Hmmmm...neither one of those websites links has anything about identifying nodular melanomas. I have what my doctor calls "skin tags" on my chest area that have slowly been turning into raised pearlescent colored moles over the last year or so...she keeps telling me they are ok when I have my annual physical, but I am really not comfortable with her diagnosis. Will see if I can find further info in a search, will post anything I find.
9 posted on 05/07/2003 11:33:45 AM PDT by ravingnutter
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To: TenthAmendmentChampion
>Same problem here in AZ. Skin cancer is high because of low humidity.

Please pardon my ignorance, but what is the link between humidity and skin cancer? I have never heard of this before.
10 posted on 05/07/2003 11:37:05 AM PDT by MissNomer
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To: HuntsvilleTxVeteran
Check out comparison photos here.

Garde la Foi, mes amis! Nous nous sommes les sauveurs de la République! Maintenant et Toujours!
(Keep the Faith, my friends! We are the saviors of the Republic! Now and Forever!)

LonePalm, le Républicain du verre cassé (The Broken Glass Republican)

11 posted on 05/07/2003 11:37:55 AM PDT by LonePalm (Commander and Chef)
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To: SamAdams76
Can one get melanoma just by routine exposure to the sun or does one have to be actually burned to be in danger?

It's actually caused by the sun exposure one has received over a lifetime. Since you say you are a natural tanner, you probably aren't in danger as much as someone like me (according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, those highest at risk have red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes, fair skin, and freckles). Still, even you're not at the beach, you should still cover all exposed skin; even on cloudy days, most UV rays still get through. If anything, do it for your appearance, as UV rays are one of the biggest factors in aging skin.
12 posted on 05/07/2003 11:44:21 AM PDT by Welsh Rabbit
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To: HuntsvilleTxVeteran
Thanks - the pics at the site were helpful.

Here's a corrected link:

http://www.alfred.org.au/departments/victorian_melanoma_service.html
13 posted on 05/07/2003 11:48:35 AM PDT by fightinJAG
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To: MissNomer
Good question. The answer is that a lot of humidity in the atmosphere tends to block the harmful ultraviolet rays. (It's about the only thing good I can say about humidity.)
14 posted on 05/07/2003 12:31:42 PM PDT by hang 'em ("Popeye Delenda Est" - Bluto)
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To: HuntsvilleTxVeteran
bump
15 posted on 05/07/2003 12:34:04 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: libbylu
Squamos Cell survivor here too (on my left hand). Last year, first time ever under the knife. Not a pleasant experience, however, grateful it was not something worse.

I guess I am part of that cave dwelling Troglodite and Irish Ancestry too. - ROTF

I have become really good pals with my dermotologist as of late. Every six months to be exact. - My doctor told me that the people that die from melonomas are usually young people 20 to 30 years that don't take spots seriously on their skin. They are usually sun bathers or out in the sun alot w/no protection. My Doctor had a terminal case pass through their office and the girl was only 16.

I heard the same thing, melonomas don't care about skin type. Just because some people have ample melotonin in their skin, may put them at greater risk, they don't think they have anything to worry about.

Things that make you go hmmmmmm

16 posted on 05/07/2003 12:46:36 PM PDT by BA63
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To: ravingnutter
I have the skin tag problem, and have had four of the relatively harmless skin cancers removed from my face -- the doc blamed them on X-ray treatment for acne when I was in high school. If you find out anything about the skin tags please send it to me. Thanks!

Carolyn

17 posted on 05/07/2003 12:49:24 PM PDT by CDHart
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To: SamAdams76
I also tan naturally and have all the features that say you will not get it. But I did, malignant melanoma. It started right up as a irregular mole and my wife said that I should have the Dr look at it. He took it out, biopsied it and I had to go back for a complete removal of everything around it (cannot see where it was removed on my face).

So slather on the sunblock and do not think you are invulnerable, as I did.
18 posted on 05/07/2003 12:52:29 PM PDT by KeyWest
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To: HuntsvilleTxVeteran
some links- sorry for my lack of html conversion

http://www.alfred.org.au/departments/victorian_melanoma_service.html

It links to either text or pics in Adobe Acrobat format.
19 posted on 05/07/2003 1:01:38 PM PDT by KeyWest
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To: CDHart
doc blamed them on X-ray treatment for acne when I was in high school.

I had horrible acne in high school, and the dermatologist actually used sun lamp treatments; I remember sitting in that "sun room" a couple times a week.

Now, of course, we know that sun lamps can cause cancer!

20 posted on 05/07/2003 1:03:15 PM PDT by sinkspur
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