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Assessing and managing malignant melanoma in primary care

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Malignant melanoma presenting on the head Malignant melanoma presenting on the head of an elderly man

Malignant melanoma (skin cancer) is now the 11th most common cause of cancer death in the UK and an estimated 2500 people die from melanoma each year in the U.K alone.1 Perhaps most worrying are the statistics which indicate that incidence of the condition has risen significantly in recent years.

As with all cancers, early diagnosis is the most effective way to tackle the disease, prevent spread and improve survival rates. This article will discuss symptoms, diagnosis and treatment and hopes to give nurses and nurse prescribers, confidence in assessing patients and getting them referred early for appropriate care and treatment.

Prevalence rates

Although the disease can occur at any age, it is now one of the most common cancers in young adults (aged 15-34) in the UK and claims more than 2000 lives a year, with around 42 people being diagnosed each day with the condition.1

Risk factors

Exposure to sunlight has long been recognised as having some positive benefits, in particular its ability to boost vitamin D levels, however prolonged or excessive exposure to sunlight is well known to be detrimental to skin health. One of the greatest risk factors is intermittent exposure to prolonged sun exposure, during holidays for example, interspersed with periods spent indoors (i.e. at work).

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