Skip to comments.Skin cancer's secrets unveiled
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
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.
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)
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
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!
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