What is melanoma?

Melanoma is one of the three main types of skin cancer and begins in the cells of the skin called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce a dark pigment (melanin) which helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from ultra violet radiation (eg. sunlight).

The amount of pigment that is produced varies with skin type. Darker skin tonings give greater protection from the sun however even darker skinned people can still get melanoma. It is when the melanocytes produce melanin in an unregulated or uncontrolled way that melanoma can develop.

As a melanoma begins to grow it is initially confined to the top layers of the skin, however, if left untreated can spread quickly through the deeper layers where it can then enter the lymphatic system or blood stream and travel to almost any part of the body, especially the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, brain and other areas of the skin. It is particularly dangerous when this spread occurs, and if surgery is not possible or is unsuccessful, the melanoma quickly becomes life threatening.

Melanoma can also arise on areas of the skin that are not exposed to the sun.

Development of melanoma

Ultra-violet (UV) radiation from sunlight (and tanning beds) plays a very important role in the development of melanoma and other skin cancers. Research has found that the rates of melanoma in Australia are higher near the coastline and it is reasoned that this is due to lifestyle factors, outdoor activity and greater sun exposure. The rates are also higher in Australia’s northern states due to the greater intensity of the sun.

Types of melanoma

Superficial Spreading Melanoma

Accounts for approx 70% of all diagnosed melanomas. It usually occurs in a previously non cancerous mole and is most commonly found on the trunk and back in men and on the legs and back of women. In the early stages it may look like a freckle or mole that is spreading sideways. Over time it can change in colour, itch or develop irregular borders. It can progress rapidly!

Nodular Melanoma

Accounting for around 15% of diagnosed melanomas, it is also the most aggressive. It may appear where a mole or lesion did not exist before. They tend to be darkly pigmented and spread rapidly in depth.

Acral Lentiginous Melanoma

Also called Subungual melanoma only accounts for around 5% of melanomas but makes up 50% of melanomas in those with dark skin. Most commonly found on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or under finger and toe nails. In the early stages it is often mistaken for a bruise, blood blister or streak in the nail.

Lentigo Maligna Melanoma

Accounts for around 10% of melanomas and often occurs on the face of middle aged to elderly persons who have suffered sun damage. For this reason it often mistaken for sunspots and goes undiagnosed or untreated making it very dangerous. It often has very irregular borders and varying shades of brown or black.

Amelanotic Melanoma

Literally means “without melanin”, which is what gives other melanomas their darker colour. Hence, these melanomas are often misdiagnosed or there is a delay in patients seeking treatment. They can appear as a lesion with little or no colour, pink or scar looking. Any lesion that is scar like or appears next to a previously treated melanoma should be examined immediately.

Ocular/Uveal Melanoma

Ocular/Uveal Melanoma is a rare and often aggressive type of melanoma that can arise within the eye. It arises from the melanocytes that give the eye its colour. The exact cause is unknown but risk factors include increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation, having light coloured eyes and being of Caucasian descent. Symptoms of an ocular melanoma tumour can include blurred vision, flashing lights and shadows. However it is not uncommon for a patient to experience no symptoms and be diagnosed during a routine eye check. The best strategy for prevention of ocular/uveal melanoma is to wear UV protective sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat.

Mucosal Melanoma

Mucosal Melanoma is also rare and accounts for only 1% of all melanomas. As with the skin, melanocytes are present in the mucosal surfaces of the body which line areas such as the sinuses, oral cavity, vagina, bowel and anus. Unlike melanoma of the skin, mucosal melanoma is not linked to sun/UV exposure. Because of location, many mucosal melanomas go undiagnosed and are often quite advanced once identified.

What to look for

It is very important to check your skin regularly in order to detect any changes in the SIZE, COLOUR or SHAPE of a mole or skin lesion.

An easy way to detect potentially harmful moles or lesions is by using the ABCDE guidlines.

Yes. In fact, everyone is at risk, as we are all exposed to the sun. Due to variations in skin types, some people are more at risk than others.


Your exposure to ultra violet (UV) light from the sun is one of the major risk factors for melanoma that you can control. UV levels are highest in summer, late spring and early autumn.

UV levels are not dependent on the temperature or cloud cover. A colder, cloudy day will still have high UV levels in summer. The following tips can help prevent melanoma…

Catching a melanoma in its early stages is one of the most important factors in improving the outcome of a melanoma diagnosis. It can literally SAVE A LIFE.

Why is catching it early so important?

Did you know...

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Privacy Policy

Australian Melanoma Research Foundation (AMRF) respects and is committed to protecting the privacy of the people whose personal information it collects. We collect personal information about individuals who are employed by us, our donors, our volunteers, other supporters, allied associations, consultants and service providers.

Information we collect

Whenever we collect personal information, we will identify ourselves as AMRF and ensure people are aware of why we are collecting information and how we plan to use it.

The type of personal information AMRF usually collects and holds includes names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, donation date, reason for donation, merchandise orders and other information such as health related information pertaining to AMRF research and program delivery. This information may be collected in person, via our website on the secure payment gateway, as well as other sources.

When people visit our website, or download information from it, the following information is recorded by Google Analytics:

  • Their network location and IP address
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This information is only used for statistical and website development purposes. We make limited use of cookies on our website. We use cookies to improve the functionality of our website, and to remember user preferences when people return.

In the event where an individual shares unsolicited personal information that AMRF would not have collected for the purposes outlined above that information will be destroyed or de-identified as soon as is practicable.

How we use and disclose personal information

We collect and use stakeholder’s personal information to carry out the functions and activities of AMRF and to comply with our legal obligations, to maintain and update our records and to help us manage and provide our services.

We may also use information to ask for support and to keep people informed about the ways in which our donors and supporters help us to make a difference to raise funds for research, awareness and early detection programs.  People have the right to opt out of any communications from AMRF.  This will not stop them receiving receipts and other transactional communications as required by law.

We may disclose personal information to third parties who assist us to perform functions on our behalf (such as commercial mail preparation services, this information is permanently deleted by the provider upon completion of the service and confirmed in writing of such).  These external service providers are under a duty to maintain the privacy and security of your information in line with this Privacy Policy and to use your personal information only for the purpose for which it is disclosed.

AMRF does not use any government related identifiers, such as Medicare numbers or tax file numbers, of an individual as our own identifier.

Marketing and communications

We may use people’s information within AMRF only in connection with marketing and fundraising campaigns. We may provide marketing communications to stakeholders on an ongoing basis by telephone, electronic messages (eg. email), online (including websites and mobile apps) and other means, unless they opt out or we are subject to legal restrictions. These may include communications relating to AMRF and our programs, campaign and promotional messages, event invitations, fundraising opportunities and newsletters.

AMRF also sends transactional communications which include but are not limited to: Donation & Tax Receipts, forgotten password e-mails, event sign up confirmation and confirmations from Web forms.

To opt-out of receiving AMRF marketing communications people can:

  • Select the “unsubscribe” option in one of the marketing communications that they receive from us.
  • Send an email to: admin@melanomaresearch.com.au
  • Call us on 0419 822 969
  • Send a written request to: PO Box 574, Kent Town DC SA 5071

Security of personal information

AMRF regards the security of personal information as a priority and takes a number of precautions to protect people’s personal information from loss, misuse, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. Specific security precautions are in place for processing online payments through payment gateway providers Stripe and PayPal which include the use of encrypted links, dedicated private connections and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. However, the Internet is not a secure environment and although all care is taken, we cannot guarantee the security of information people provide to us via electronic means such as email.

If people become aware of any inaccuracy in the personal information, we hold about themselves, they are encouraged to contact AMRF so we can update any personal information we hold.


Where it is lawful and practicable, we will allow individuals to deal with us on an anonymous basis. For example, if we receive a telephone enquiry, we will not require that the enquirer gives us their name, although depending on the nature of the enquiry, we may not be able to answer it unless they do.

We can also accept gifts and other forms of support anonymously. However, provisions contained in taxation legislation require AMRF to collect the name of the donor if the donor requires a tax-deductible receipt.

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AMRF’s reputation and goodwill is extremely important. Permission to use images featured on this website has only been given to AMRF and therefore should not be downloaded or used in any way by a third party without consent.

For information on obtaining permission for an image, please email admin@melanomaresearch.com.au.

Acceptance of terms

If AMRF updates or changes this Privacy Policy, the changes will be made on this page. Your continued use of AMRF’s website following the posting of changes will mean you accept those changes.

Contact us

If you have any questions about privacy-related issues OR you wish to lodge a complaint about a breach of this policy OR other privacy matter OR you do not wish to be contacted by us to ask for your support, please contact us by email at  admin@melanomaresearch.com.au. Alternatively our postal address is below:

PO Box 574
Kent Town DC SA 5071

We take your privacy concerns seriously. Where you express any concerns that we have interfered with your privacy, we will respond to let you know who will be handling your matter and when you can expect a further response. We may request additional details from you regarding your concerns and may need to engage or consult with other parties in order to investigate and deal with your issue. We will keep records of your request and any resolution.

For information about privacy generally, or if your concerns are not resolved to your satisfaction, you may contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner at www.oaic.gov.au and on 1300 363 992.