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  • Posted: Friday 12 June, 2015

Careful monitoring and an accurate diagnosis is key to identifying which moles could develop into serious issues like melanoma and skin cancer.

Melanoma is a skin cancer that develops from the pigment producing cells in the skin. Identified early there is the potential for full cure but unfortunately melanoma can spread and be life threatening. New Zealand has the highest rate of Melanoma in the world with 1800 new cases diagnosed per year. It is the third most common cancer diagnosis in New Zealand (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). Fortunately, due to the ability to recognise and treat melanoma in its early stages, it is only the tenth most common cause of cancer death.

Your Plastic Surgeon is trained to help with both the initial diagnosis of melanoma as well as its subsequent management. The best way to manage melanoma is to prevent it developing. One of the most significant risk factors for subsequent development of melanoma is sun burn in childhood or adolescence therefore the use of sun protection from an early age is essential. Once Melanoma has developed it always requires surgical removal.

If a melanoma does develop we worry about it for four main reasons. Firstly there is a risk that it may regrow where it originally appeared. To decrease that risk your Plastic Surgeon will remove a margin of normal skin from the site of the melanoma – the amount of skin removed depends on the severity of the melanoma. The second risk is that it may spread to the lymph glands near where the melanoma was. Your surgeon will recommend if further assessment of the glands is necessary. This may involve scans or removal of a single indicator node called the sentinel lymph node. Thirdly there is a risk that melanoma can spread throughout your body. Your Plastic Surgeon can investigate and advise you on further care if that is the case. Finally there is always the risk of developing a further new melanoma if you have already had one. Your Plastic Surgeon can offer you ongoing surveillance or advice on alternative appropriate review.

Further information is available from the Cancer Society, Melanoma Foundation and the Online Cancer Guide – A comprehensive resource providing complete information on various types of cancers such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, throat, blood cancer, brain cancer, bone cancer, etc. Also know about the causes of these cancers, symptoms, various treatment methods.

Our plastic surgeons are fully trained to identify and treat your worrying moles. See our Find a Surgeon page for a list of plastic and reconstructive surgeons who specialise in treating Melanoma.