In November and December of 2020, the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy, conducted a survey of 734 dermatologists from 36 different countries.
In the survey, dermatologists were asked to estimate the proportion of skin check appointments missed due to the pandemic and estimate the proportion of undiagnosed melanomas compared to a normal year.
The survey reported; compared to a normal year of performing patient skin examination, dermatologists estimated that up to one fifth (21%) of melanomas may have gone undiagnosed in 2020, with one third (33.6%) of appointments missed due to the pandemic. This may be due to a number of factors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dermatologists estimated that 21% of melanomas may have gone undiagnosed in 2020, with 33.6% of appointments missed due to the pandemic
Different types of skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. Yet in most cases, it is preventable and early detection leads to better outcomes. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from sunlight and UV from artificial sources (e.g. sunbeds) increases skin cancer risk.
There are two main categories: non-melanoma skin cancer (comprising of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) and malignant melanoma. Of the different types of skin cancer, melanoma is not the most common but raises the greatest concern as it can spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes difficult to treat and can be fatal.
Early detection of melanoma saves lives
Fortunately, melanoma can be completely cured if it is identified and removed early. You can reduce your risk of melanoma by avoiding excessive UV exposure and sunburns and by seeing your doctor if you find a suspicious growth on your skin. If your doctor is concerned about a particular growth, you may be referred to a consultant dermatologist or plastic surgeon for diagnosis.
Peter and Bernie Rice from the Melanoma Trust says; “The Melanoma Trust aims to promote awareness through five key steps: Education, Awareness, Prevention, Early Detection and Action. Being aware can save lives.”
Inspect your skin
Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, including areas that are protected from the sun. It is important to be familiar with your own skin so that you will notice any changes. The majority of melanomas are detected by the person affected themselves, or their partners. Ideally you should inspect your skin once a month, so make skin self-examinations a regular habit. Check the whole of your body from head to toe.
The majority of melanomas are detected by the person affected themselves, or their partners. Ideally you should inspect your skin once a month, so make skin self-examinations a regular habit!
What warning signs should you look out for?
Anything new, different and changing.
Be alert for a new and changing mole, or the change in appearance of an existing mole.
Things to watch out for include: changes in shape, colour, size or if you notice bleeding, itch, pain or ulceration. The ABCDE method indicates some changes to look out for, to help detect a melanoma. Melanomas tend to:
- be Asymmetrical
- have an irregular Border
- have multiple Colours
- have a Diameter greater than 6mm
- Evolve, enlarge or change
However, not all melanomas follow the clues of ABCDE. You should check any skin growth that is changing. If you are concerned about a skin growth, you should always see your GP or Dermatologist.
Professor Anne Marie Tobin, Consultant Dermatologist and National Clinical Lead for Dermatology, HSE Ireland, says “Patients with a suspected melanoma are referred by GP’s through the 14 National Pigmented Lesion Clinics operating throughout the country. Please be reassured that our services are continuing to operate, despite COVID restrictions. If you’re concerned about a change or growth on your skin, you should see your doctor.”
Skin self-exam tools
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy has launched two free-to-use, skin self-exam tools:
- A skin self-exam video covering the ABCDE warning signs of melanoma and the seven steps for checking the body.
- A free to use voice-activated digital assistant ‘Skin Check’ app, available on both Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant platforms. The app guides people through what to look for, and the seven steps for conducting a full body skin exam. The assistant also offers the ability to set a recurring monthly reminder for the exam. Once enabled, users can simply ask Alexa or Google: “Open Skin Check”
The information in this skill is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Contact your doctor to receive medical advice.
- Related:Protect & Inspect your skin
How to perform a Self Skin Check
About the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy
The Global coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy was formed in 2014 by the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) in response to the global need to bring the patient voice to the melanoma space. Since its founding, the group has grown to include organisations from 27 different countries.
Facilitated by the MRF, the Coalition meets the vital needs of the worldwide melanoma community through the functioning of three working groups; Melanoma Awareness and Patient Resources, Patient Advocacy and Access to Treatment and Collaboration and Recruitment.
Be Sunsmart; you can reduce your risk of skin cancer by avoiding overexposure to UV radiation from sunlight or artificial sources e.g. sunbeds. It is particularly important to avoid intense sun exposure and sunburns, especially when the UV index is 3 or above, whether in Ireland or on sunny holidays abroad.
Check out our SunSmart page for must-read articles, leaflets and infographics to help you understand why it’s important to be SunSmart to protect your skin.