Red flag for skin melanoma
A Western Australian study has just revealed that if you have a pterygium you have a 24% more likely chance of developing melanoma of the skin.
A pterygum is a fleshy growth that encroaches onto the cornea and is a result of sun damage and exposure to sun, wind and dust causing problems with vision, an unstable tear film (dry eye) and eye inflammation (red eye).
Australia has one of the highest rates of pterygiums in the world 1.1% of the population which rises to 12% of men over the age of 60. The average age of surgery is 49 with 65% of those being male.
The growth itself is not cancerous and is mainly removed surgically for cosmetic reasons, if it encroaches more than 2mm across the cornea or causes ongoing eye irritation.
1) Superior, effective and constant sun protection for the eyes is paramount to prevent progression of the growth or other eye cancers. Wearing sunglasses that have a 100% UV coating on the front and back surface of the lens and a polarizing filter is strongly advised.
2) The Cancer Council recommendation for skin protection is to limit exposure between 10am and 2 pm but in a Japanese study carried out by the Kanazawa Medical University, peak UV exposure for the eyes is between 8am and 10am and 2pm and 4pm the time when most people would not think to wear sun protection.
3) Wearing a broad brimmed hat for outdoor activities.
4) If you already have a pterygium, having regular skin checks for melanoma is highly recommended .
See my next blog on the ideal pair of sunglasses.