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Checking for melanoma

There is some good news on skin cancer. With early detection and proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is around 95pc. Once it spreads however, the prognosis is poor.

Melanoma most often appears as a new or changing mole or freckle. It occurs most commonly on women's legs, on men's chests, on the stomach area and on the back.

It's normal for moles to change during puberty but it is important to watch the ones that do change, especially if they do so differently to other moles. Watch out for any alteration in colour, size or shape. If you notice something different, get it checked out by your GP without delay.

Look out for the ABCD warning signs: asymmetry, border irregularity, colour variation, diameter increase.

Dr Coleman at The Blackrock Clinic recommends what she calls the 'Ugly Duckling' approach. Patients and physicians should search for a mole that looks different compared to other moles on the body. "If it stands out there's probably cause for concern," she warns. There is an increased risk of melanoma if you get short bursts of sun on only a few occasions during the year or if you've been badly sunburnt, especially as a child.

If in doubt, don't hesitate to visit your doctor. Early detection could save your life.