Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer in existence. The Costa del Sol hospital in Marbella recently organised a special Sun Protection Campaign to make more people aware of the disease and of the importance of early diagnosis as this can save lives in 95 per cent of cases.
On World Melanoma Day, which was Thursday last week, the hospital held a special conference with experts giving talks about the illness and ways to prevent it in everyday life.
"It is one of the most aggressive tumours there is, and it is increasing at a faster rate than any other type of malignant neoplasia. However, it is also one that we can deal with if it is detected in time, because it appears on our skin in the form of a mole and is easily spotted. The problem is that you have to know how to recognise it, and that is one of the objectives of today's conference, making this illness more visible," said Margarita de Troya, who is the director of the campaign and head of the Dermatology department at the Costa del Sol Health Agency.
The skin's memory
The provincial delegate for Health and Families, Carlos Bautista, also warned that "the skin has a memory" and talked about the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation over the passage of time in people who have suffered from sunburn. He also explained that this illness affects more women than men, and that people with pale skin and moles are also more vulnerable to it.
At the conference, several experts explained the importance of seeking medical advice if there is even the slightest doubt about a mole, so the relevant tests can be carried out and the cancer can be caught while it is still in an initial phase. "If it isn't detected in time, this tumour invades lymph glands and internal organs," stressed Inés Fernández, who is a dermatologist at the hospital.
Looking at the figures, she specified that 116 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed at the Costa del Sol hospital last year. Of the total, 57 per cent of these patients were men, and 43 per cent women. In the men, most of the melanomas were found on the trunk of the body and the neck, whereas in women the majority were on the legs.
Spain has a high incidence of this illness compared with that in countries such as the USA or Italy, (where the climate is very similar to Spain), and the numbers are expected to rise by about 20 per cent by 2040.
Also taking part in the conference was María Godrid, a patient who has had this type of cancer, and she gave a talk on 'Melanoma and me'.
She stressed that people need to be aware of the need to check for moles, and the importance of prevention. She also expressed her thanks to the doctors who had looked after her during her illness, and said that "these professionals are building a great future through the work they do".
The last speaker was José Millán, a specialist in Dermatology at the hospital, who talked about 'Teledermatology'. This technique, which has numerous applications, helps with an early diagnosis of melanoma.
"What we do here is receive photos from patients with possible melanomas, and we can make a diagnosis using those images," he explained.