Malta Independent

Melanoma Monday: the fight against skin cancer begins in your head – act now

- ■ Jeremy Micallef

A melanoma skin cancer campaign has been launched to raise awareness and promote the prevention, early detection and treatment of the commonest skin-related cause of death worldwide.

Monday 6 May will see the Melanoma Skin Cancer Screening Clinic in the Department of Dermatolog­y at Boffa Hospital will be conducting screenings by appointmen­t, along with the disseminat­ion of printed education material, billboards, and the sharing of clinical data with a European Euro-Melanoma Database.

Speaking at the press conference, Dr Lawrence Scerri, Dr Michael Boffa, and Dr Paula Vassallo broke down the various statistics, techniques, and other useful informatio­n that would help raise awareness on this issue.

Expanding on the two main objectives, UV protection/avoidance, particular­ly in high-risk individual­s starting from childhood, was suggested to help prevent or reduce the risk of developmen­t of melanoma.

Early detection and treatment of melanoma was also noted as an equally important objective as this considerab­ly influences the survival rate.

The ABCDE criteria

Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, and within a pre-existing mole in 30-50% of cases, but it normally appears as a brown/black patch or lump with irregular features.

The ABCDE criteria is a useful guide to detect the cancer.

A for Asymmetry, meaning that melanoma cannot be divided into 2 equal halves.

B for Border, meaning that its border is irregular and indented as opposed to a smooth rounded border.

C for Colour, meaning that it consists of more than one shade as opposed to one uniform colour.

D for Diameter, meaning that melanoma is usually larger than 6mm in diameter (only valid in the presence of an abnormal shape and colour).

E for Evolution, meaning that it may have had recent changes in size, shape and colour, spontaneou­s bleeding and irritation.

This brings us to the cause of melanoma.

Exposure to the ultraviole­t rays of the Sun is noted as the single most important cause of Melanoma, and there is a strong link between episodes of sunburn in childhood and the subsequent developmen­t of melanoma.

Minimizing exposure to Sun’s rays and preventing sunburn is essential to preventing Melanoma, and staying indoors during the hours of peak sunshine (11am to 4pm) is an easy way of protecting oneself.

Melanoma in Malta

Malta currently sees a total of around 100 new cases of melanoma per year, and this has more than doubled over the past 2 decades – jumping from 24.6 mean cases of Invasive Malignant Melanoma per year from 1993-2004 to 50.7 mean cases from 2005-2016.

Melanoma-in-situ also saw this trend, jumping from 12.3 mean cases per year from 1999-2017 to 27.7 mean cases per year from 2007-2016.

Unfortunat­ely, the mean mortality rate has also gone up by 67% over a 24-year period, going from 4.9 mean deaths per year from 1993-2004, to 8.2 mean deaths per year from 2005-2016.

In spite of this, the rate of increase in mortality is slower than the rate of increase in incidence – meaning that the rate of people going to get the appropriat­e treatment is rising at a faster rate in proportion to the rise of diagnosed cases.

For more informatio­n on melanoma visit www.euromelano­ma.org

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