When 22-year-old Clinton Heal noticed a lump on his neck while getting ready for work one Monday morning, it didn't cross his mind that it could be skin cancer.
"I've always considered myself to be quite sun smart," he said.
"Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors playing football, surfing and doing other sports, like a normal kid and teenager. But I was always wearing long-sleeve rash vests, sunscreen, zinc and sunglasses. I never purposely went in the sun to tan."
Mr Heal's initial lump was diagnosed as secondary melanoma as the cancer had already spread to other parts of his body.
His treatment over the past seven years has been gruelling.
"I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy with the aim of stopping the cancer from coming back; at this time I was told I had about a 10 per cent chance of living a further two years. Unfortunately, it came back 15 months after the initial surgery. I've had 34 secondary melanoma cancers removed since."
In 2010, Mr Heal founded MelanomaWA, a venture that saw him named the Young Australian of the Year the following year.
"It was created to give people touched by melanoma here in WA a place where they can go for information and support," he said.
Malignant melanomas occur when too much exposure to UV radiation in sunlight causes normal skin cells to become cancerous. Malignant melanomas make up only 2 per cent of all skin cancers but are classed as the most dangerous. If it is caught before it penetrates too deeply into the skin, a melanoma can be simply removed as part of the biopsy process. But if it is not treated in time, the cancer can spread to other areas of the body through the lymphatic system and become secondary melanoma.
Melanoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australians aged 15 to 29, accounting for more than one quarter of all cancers in this age group. Cancer Council WA SunSmart coordinator Mark Strickland said there was a misconception among young people that skin cancer was something that happened to "old" people.
"Adolescents are very resistant to the sun- protection message in general and, unfortunately, they tend to pay for this with cosmetic damage to the skin and high rates of melanoma," Mr Strickland said. "Many non-melanoma skin cancers do appear later in life. However, skin cancers -including melanoma - can appear at any age."
Dermatologist Kurt Gebauer said that melanomas were not difficult to spot."Melanomas look strikingly different from anything else on your skin, they're like stains that grow and change," he said. "The clinical features that we look for are size - usually bigger than 5mm, but anything more than 3mm in diameter could be suspicious.