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As a skincare therapist, it’s my job and passion to educate people on the skin, and bring to their attention risk factors as I may see them presented on the skin. Part of these risk factors is the sun, and how damaging its UV rays are to the skin. Now, I’m not talking a slight burn and flakiness to the skin, because we know that is bad…I’m talking something more detrimental to our livelihoods, and that is Melanoma. This blog aims to educate you on what melanoma is, how to identify it, and how to protect yourself from it.

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops due to sun exposure. It develops in the melanocyte- a cell responsible for creating the pigment in our hair, skin and eyes. Unfortunately, melanoma is the most aggressive and life-threatening form of cancer, due to its fast-spreading abilities to other areas of the body. The rate in which someone can cure from melanoma is highly dependent on the stage and time of detection. This is why regular skin checks from a professional are crucial.

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

With the naked eye, it’s not possible to self-diagnose a mole or freckle as a melanoma, but there are warning signs that can lead you in the right direction. There is a universal acronym in which all individuals and professionals use to help identify whether moles or lesions are a melanoma warning or not. The acronym goes as follows:

  1. Asymmetry. This is when the edges are blurred, irregular or jagged.
  2. Border. One half of the mole doesn’t match the other.
  3. Color. Shades of black, brown, red, white, red or blue can be seen.
  4. Diameter. Diameter of the mole is larger than 6mm.
  5. Evolving. Size, shape, colour, or new changes.

If you notice that any of your moles/lesions fall into this category, then you should seek help from a professional immediately. Remember – prevention is better than cure.

Melanoma In New Zealand

The beautiful summer weather and clear air to highlight the countries beauty may be a perk of living here, but equally it can be life-threatening too. According to Melanoma New Zealand, more than 6000 melanomas are diagnosed each year, and out of that number, 300 result in death. As sobering as those stats may be, it’s not all doom and gloom- there are ways in which you can protect yourself and people around you.

Melanoma Risk Factors

  1. Sun Exposure: excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds significantly increases the risk of melanoma.
  2. Skin Type: fair-skinned individuals who burn easily, have freckles, or have light hair are at higher risk.
  3. Family History: if melanoma runs in your family, your risk is higher.
  4. Previous skin cancer: if you have had skin cancer, or any type of cancer before, you are at risk of getting melanoma.
  5. Moles: if you have many moles, or unusual looking ones, you are at a higher risk.

Prevention From Melanoma

  1. Use sunscreen – apply a broad spectrum sun cream of 30 or higher, and reapply when swimming or sweating. Don’t forget to apply on cloudy days too!
  2. Wear protective clothing – protect your skin with long sleeves, hats, sunglasses and umbrellas.
  3. Seek shade – avoid being in direct sunlight from 10am-4pm, as this is when UV is at its peak.
  4. Avoid sunbeds – sunbeds omit UV rays and can cause melanomas.
  5. Regular skin checks – check your own skin monthly, and then see a professional for annual mole mappings.

While melanomas are aggressive and extremely dangerous, they are preventable. Make sure that you are not only following the tips in this blog for yourself but are passing it on to friends and family, so that they too can be protected. If you have a mole or lesion that you are concerned about, contact a professional as soon as possible.


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