Awareness

Our 22-year old daughter Alexandra Lines died on May 14th 2005 following a two-year battle with melanoma skin cancer. We wish our daughters death to act as a strong warning to others about the dangers of skin cancer. Those that knew Alexandra well would know that she was always keen to help and teach other people.

They say that you learn from example and it is therefore fitting that we should raise awareness of the Melanoma skin cancer that caused Alexandra's death. We have been fortunate to have inspired a young man, Lee Jordan, to create a dedicated website providing information on all aspects of Melanoma, and we would urge anyone seeking information to visit his site moleAware.org

So Who Is At Risk

Everyone should be careful in the sun no matter what colour your skin is. See: Cancer Research UK

Alexandra was fair skinned with freckles and moles and knew of the dangers of the sun. She was not a sun worshiper or a sunbed girl and in fact was exposed far less than maybe considered normal. Her melanoma risk profile was greater though, with there being a history of melanoma in the family. See: Risk information

Alexandra's death, shows that by having a sensible approach to the sun still does not make you exempt form obtaining skin cancer. The first line of defence therefore is prevention.

Use the SunSmart Code

  • Stay in shade 11-3pm
  • Make sure you never burn
  • Always cover up
  • Remember to take extra care of children
  • Then use factor 15+ sunscreen

See: SunSmart code

Refer to the UV index

The Strength of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation is expressed as a Solar UV Index, a system developed by the World Health Organization. The Met Office forecasts include the effects of:

  • The position of the sun in the sky
  • Forecast cloud cover
  • Ozone amounts in the stratosphere

The risk of damage to the skin can be determined, based on your skin-type, from the table outlined by the met office. Please click on the following link for the latest forecasts. See: Met Office UK

Personal UV meters

There are also UV meters which are a personal way of getting a measure of how much radiation is reaching your current location. Tesco online are selling wrist watches that give you a digital read out of the current UV Index using a meter on the face of the watch, which sets off one of two alarms when a certain UVi value is reached.
See : UV Detector Watch : Tesco Electrical @ �9.99

Remember to act early

The main course of action for advanced melanoma tumours is to surgically remove them. Following the removal of the lymph nodes in her leg Alexandra had several other tumours removed before the fatal inoperable one that attacked her brain.

Get Your Moles Checked

Alexandra's mole did change shape quickly and had started to bleed before being checked by the doctor. In her case this proved fatal because it had already grown too deep. The importance of being early cannot be overstated. Left too late the first line treatment is surgical removal. Melanoma tumours are not very responsive to chemotherapy or radiotherapy and left too late can spread around the body, which is why it is so often fatal. In Alexandra's case the melanoma spread to the lymph nodes in her groin and unfortunately the chemotherapy failed to make a significant difference in shrinking the mass. She lost all her hair during treatment and was in a few life-threatening situations.

See your Doctor Immediately if:

  • Your mole is inflamed or has red ragged edges
  • Is bleeding, oozing or crusting
  • Feels funny or itches
  • Is bigger than all your other moles
  • Contains different colours
  • Your mole is new or growing

See: Cancer Research UK: Detecting skin cancer

Most moles are harmless, but if you are still worried after seeing your doctor, get a second opinion, preferably from a dermatologist. There are various private options who for a fee will check your moles, such as The Mole Clinic.

Early detection

The early detection of skin cancer is of the utmost importance. Melanoma skin cancer in particular kills around 25% of its victims, and it is the third most common cancer in 15 - 39 year olds. The UK Melanoma study group recommend that individuals and particularly children should not get sunburned. White skinned individuals should limit their total cumulative sun exposure through life. Those with a strong family history of melanoma are placed at a greater risk.