The Euro Melanoma campaign and the importance of communication, education, and understanding of skin cancer

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Published: 11 Sep 2014
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Prof Veronique del Marmol - Chair of Euromelanoma Europe, Brussels, Belgium

Prof del Marmol talks to ecancertv at the XV World Congress on Cancers of the Skin in Edinburgh, UK, about "Euro Melanoma", a Europe-wide campaign to improve skin cancer awareness and communication.

She mentions the importance of people understanding ways to prevent skin cancer as well as knowing how to check themselves for early signs, and notes how campaigns such as this one can help spread the message and challenge a culture of denial and avoidance.

I was invited as the Chair of Euromelanoma Europe and I was presenting all the campaign that we organised in all Europe. So it’s a campaign which has been initiated in ’99 in Belgium and since then many countries are joining us. We are more than thirty countries now joining this campaign and every year I provide material for every country to organise locally a campaign with a communication kit, a website available for them, a press file and they can organise locally their own campaign.

What are the aims of the campaign?

The idea is really the awareness of skin cancer; skin cancer can be seen, it’s very important to raise education and increase education about skin cancer because we know that when people are educated they can recognise for themselves or their family. It’s important that they come very early. Early diagnosis is very important because we know that we save lives if we do this early diagnosis.

Which aspects does the campaign focus on?

The campaign is based on different cancers, melanoma but also the non-melanoma skin cancer. It’s important that people recognise the signs. So the first thing that we really emphasise is really to recognise all the signs related to that: something that you see on your skin will change. For melanoma you have a different system to recognise it, ABCDE – asymmetry, irregular border, difference of colour, large diameter, E for evolution, changing of the mole, it’s important. Also to recognise their own risk. People have low risk of getting a skin cancer but also they can be at a high risk and this is important because they have to check themselves much more than the others and to be checked also by specialists.

We try to do that every year because we know that awareness is getting down if we don’t do anything. We have the help of the media and films like this are important because people like to look at film and to understand what happens.

How frequently should people be checking their skin?

First they have to recognise if they are at risk, if they have a fair skin, many moles, a history of skin cancer in the family or themselves they are at much higher risk. So if you look at yourself it’s important to look at yourself once a month and to learn how to look. That’s the only kit of self-examination and we have that information on the website that we organise, Euromelanoma. They can have a look and even we made a film just to encourage people to look at themselves and how to look.

What sort of things do you do to raise awareness?

Every year we try to find a new theme. We emphasise more on secondary prevention; secondary prevention is more how to recognise it. This year we had this spider image. I don’t know if you have seen it but it’s a spider and this spider is something that you want to keep on your arm. So it’s just to say why you let spots like this stay on your arm when you don’t let this spider on your arm. We develop all the idea of denial which is something not studied at all in cancer. It’s amazing because, as a clinician, we are used to seeing that. Regularly people coming with huge lesions and you said, “Even if you don’t know what it is, how can you not move to ask what it is?” This process is quite known by the clinicians but it was not really studied and we developed a film with a psychologist to explain what it is and also to decrease this reaction because if people do understand that early diagnosis and screening is really very easy and it’s helpful you are totally safe. So it’s important to be diagnosed early.