health

Throw some serious shade at skin cancer and "March Against Melanoma".

‘Have you had that mole checked?’ With a melanoma on the back of her neck, these are words Rebecca Macauley is grateful for.

Rebecca, who will participate in the March Against Melanoma , Sunday 1 March, is one of more than 400,000 Australians treated for skin cancer and melanoma each year.

“When I was in high school, we were visited by a cancer survivor who came to speak at assembly. ‘Turn to the person on either side of you” he instructed. I looked at my two friends. “One of you will battle cancer in your lifetime,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca Macauley

This moment resonated with Rebecca “the memory came back to me as I sat at Liam’s funeral seven years ago. He had been the boy on my left. He died of melanoma,” Rebecca said.

“Liam was an incredible boy who became a lawyer, a comedian, a husband, a father and who did not reach the age of forty.”

It was his death that prompted her to see her GP for a referral and continue to push when she was told ‘I don’t think its anything to worry about’.

“I’m a freckled girl. Not soft, light brown sprinkles, but large dark ‘splodges’. So many that it can be very hard to keep track of them all. Luckily for me, I had a vigilant and loving mother who did that for me when I was younger,” Rebecca said.

Slip, slop, slap, seek, slide.

After having one mole removed and the biopsy coming back clear, she said it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.

“Cancer had never been in the forefront of my mind. I suppose it isn’t for anyone, until it happens,” Rebecca said.

In the early summer of 2011 Rebecca was diagnosed with ‘melanoma in situ’ and although the initial diagnosis was a shock, her doctor explained it was the best possible bad news.

The third time she had the mole checked, the doctor said he would be shocked if it was anything serious but it was.

“After it had been removed and diagnosed, I then had a more extensive ‘excavation’ of the skin around the site of the mole. This was followed by three monthly, then six monthly, now yearly, full body checks and scans,” Rebecca said

The Skin & Cancer Foundation recommends checking your skin every three months, consulting a GP or dermatologist if there are any changes in the size, shape or colour of a mole or spot.

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Associate Professor, Rosemary Nixon from the Skin & Cancer Foundation said melanomas are more likely to be new spots, although may also occur in pre-existing moles.

“While sun protection is so important, many people are surprised they do not just appear in sun-exposed areas,” A/Prof Nixon said.

March Against Melanoma will take place in Melbourne on March 1, 2015.

The Skin & Cancer Foundation’s March Against Melanoma event, Sunday, 1 March at Pillars of Wisdom, the Tan Track, Melbourne has something for all fitness levels with an 8km run and 2 and 4km walking options.

March Against Melanoma was started in 2007 by Louise White after the death of her daughter Emily just before her 27th birthday.

More than 2000 Victorians will participate raising funds for skin cancer and melanoma research.

Tickets are still available. Register at www.marchagainstmelanoma.com.au and throw some serious shade at skin cancer.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Melanomas can be diagnosed using the ABCDE method:

• A – Asymmetry
• B – Border irregularity
• C – Colour variation
• D – Diameter (usually over 6mm)
• E – Evolution (change and growing larger)

Non-melanoma skin cancers can be pink, red, pigmented or skin coloured and scaly. They are commonly found on sun exposed sites like the face including lips and ears, neck and backs of hands. Important signs include:
• Changes in size, shape or elevation
• Tenderness
• Bleeding

PROTECTING YOUR SKIN

• Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
• Wear a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses.
• Check the UV alert applicable for your location on the Sunsmart app
• Avoid sunburn when walking, running, gardening, playing cricket, relaxing at the beach or during any outdoor activity

March for Melanoma kicks on from the Pillars of Wisdom in Kings Domain Gardens, Melbourne on March 1, 2015. For more details on how you can get involved click here.