One person every five hours will die from melanoma in Australia! 

Melanoma can kill you.  Melanoma may spread to other organs, making it essential to treat this skin cancer early.  In 2017, it was expected that more than 1,800 Australians would die from melanoma: that is five people each day. (source: Cancer Council 

Melanoma is a very serious form of skin cancer of melanocytes, the cells that produce dark protective pigment called melanin.  It usually occurs on the parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. Rarely melanomas can occur in parts of the skin or body that have never been exposed to the sun.

Melanoma risk increases with exposure to UV radiation, particularly with episodes of sunburn (especially during childhood).

Melanoma risk is increased for people who have:

  • unprotected sun exposure

  • increased numbers of unusual moles (dysplastic naevi)

  • depressed immune systems

  • a family history of melanoma in a first degree relative

  • fair skin, a tendency to burn rather than tan, freckles, light eye colour, light or red hair colour

  • had a previous melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer


Symptoms of Melanoma

Often melanoma has no symptoms, however, the first sign is generally a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot. These changes can include:

  • colour – a mole may change in colour or have different colour shades or become blotchy

  • size – a mole may appear to get bigger

  • shape – a mole may have in irregular border or may increase in height

  • elevation – the mole may develop a raised area

  • itching or bleeding.


Other symptoms include dark areas under nails or on membranes lining the mouth, vagina or anus.

New moles and spots will appear and change during childhood, adolescence and during pregnancy and this is normal. However, adults who develop new spots or moles should have them examined by their doctor. 

Diagnosis of Melanoma 

If you have a suspicious spot or mole, your doctor may examine you and use a SIAscope (magnifying instrument). The ABCDE method is used to help identify symptoms and make a diagnosis:

  • A - Asymmetry, irregular

  • B - Border, uneven

  • C - Colour

  • D - Diameter (usually over 6mm),

  • E - Evolving (changing and growing)

If the doctor suspects melanoma, they will organise a biopsy to be carried out.