Reduce your risk of getting melanoma – limit your exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and do not tan. The number one preventable risk factor for the most common form of melanoma is overexposure to damaging UVR. Overexposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet radiation are known to cause harm to the skin, eyes and immune system. About 65% of melanomas worldwide can be attributed to UVR exposure.
Be Sun Safe Outdoors
Always practice sun safety habits outdoors including during the winter, on cloudy days or when in water.
– Seek shade between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. when UV radiation is at its peak.
– Wear sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible
– Wear a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears
– Wear UVA/UVB wrap around sunglasses
– Apply SPF 30+ broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen generously to clean, dry skin, at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply at least every two hours when outdoors.
Avoid Indoor Tanning Equipment
Do not use artificial sources of UV radiation indoors. People who have tanned indoors have about a 75 percent higher risk of developing melanoma or other forms of skin cancer. There is no such thing as a safe tan! Any tan or change in skin colour is a sign of skin damage.
The World Health Organization has issued a recommendation against the use of tanning equipment. Tanning is not a safe source of vitamin D. The best way to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D is by taking a vitamin D supplement and including D-rich food sources, such as milk or milk alternatives, such as fortified soy and almond beverages in your diet.
It is important to know what to look for and to check your skin regularly. As you begin self-examinations it is important to visit a physician to establish a baseline for your moles, blemishes, freckles, and any other marks on your skin, so that you may begin to monitor your skin for any changes. If melanoma is found and treated early, the chances for long-term survival are excellent. However, as it progresses, melanoma becomes increasingly harder to treat and there are limited successful options for treatment. Learn more about the ABCDE signs below so you know what to look for!
How Check Your Skin
It is important to check your skin regularly! Monitor changes in your skin and moles and report them to your doctor. Check your skin in a well lit area and ask someone to assist you in checking your skin in hard to see areas.
|Examine your the front and back of your body in a mirror. Then look at your right and left sides, arms raised.|
|Bend your elbows, and look carefully at your forearms, back of upper arms and palms. Check your fingers and under fingernails.|
|Look at the backs of your legs and feet, spaces between toes, toenails and soles.|
|Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part your hair and lift to carefully check.|
|Finally, check your abdomen, back and buttocks with a hand mirror.|
What to Look for on Your Skin
Melanomas can look very different from each other. Some melanomas may have all the ABCDE signs. Others may have only one or two of the ABCDE features. Advanced melanomas may have changes in their texture or feel. The melanoma may become hard or bumpy. The surface of the melanoma may ulcerate (appear scraped or raw, and it may ooze or bleed). The melanoma may be itchy, sore, or even painful.
It is important that melanoma is diagnosed early. If you notice any of the following, contact your doctor for referral to a dermatologist.
You are the best person to notice changes in your skin. Take a picture of any suspicious mole or lesion. If you notice a change or are concerned, please see your family doctor or dermatologist.
The ABCDE’s of Melanoma
|Asymmetry – The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other.|
|Border – The edges are ragged, notched, uneven or blurred.|
|Colour – Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, or blue may also be seen. Some melanomas will show a loss of color in a pre-existing mole or in the area surrounding the mole.|
|Diameter – Diameter is usually larger than 6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter. Also note any moles that have grown in size.|
Evolution – The mole has been changing in size, shape, colour, surface or appearance. Also check if a new growth develops in an area of previously normal skin. You may find pale, pearly nodules that may grow larger and crust, or red, bumpy, scaly, sharply defined patches. Be alert if you have any sores that do not heal or any patch of skin that bleeds, oozes or itches
Canadian Cancer Society. Melanoma Overview. Available at: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/overview/.
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2011. Available at: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Calcium-and-Vitamin-D.aspx
National Cancer Institute. What You Need To Know About Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin/.
World Health Organization. Skin cancers. Available at: ttp://who.int/uv/faq/skincancer/en/index1.html.
“The Association of Use of Sunbeds with Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers: A Systematic Review,” International Journal of Cancer 120, no. 5(2006): 1116 – 1122. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.22453/abstract.