Too much sun without protecting your skin is the main cause of melanoma. Doctors recommend wearing sunscreen 365 days of the year. Whether it is summer or winter your skin can be damaged by ultraviolet light. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs in the melanocytes, the cells in the skin that make pigment. UV rays from the sun or tanning bed damage melanocytes. Melanocytes are unable to repair damage to the DNA from the ultraviolet light and that results in overgrowth and tumours. Rates of melanoma are going up in Canada but the good news is this type of skin cancer is preventable if you protect yourself and check your skin for irregular moles.
People with fair skin that burns easily, many freckles or moles, or had more than two blistering sunburn before the age of 20 are at greater risk for melanoma. Early detection is key. Spotting it early and getting it treated it before it spreads is critical. Melanoma first grows along the surface of the skin, but over time, it starts to grow down and can become deadly. Experts recommends checking your skin and moles once a month. Here are the ABC’s of mole evaluation:
A – Asymmetry. The mole should be symmetrical, or a uniform shape.
B – Border. The mole should have smooth borders, not jagged or fuzzy edges.
C – Colour. The mole should be a uniform brown colour. Melanomas are often black, blue, reddish or
D – Diameter. The mole should be no more than 6 mm across, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
E – Evolution and Elevation. Melanoma often changes over time, unlike a benign mole, which will
stay the same. Melanomas can also rise above the surface of the skin.
F – Family. If you have a grouping or family of moles, they should all look the same. Melanomas tend
to stand out.
If you spot any of these signs while checking your moles, you should see a dermatologist.
How can you protect yourself? Really, it is nothing you have not already heard:
1- Cover up. Wear a broad rimmed hat. Cover your skin or wear SPF 30 sunscreen or higher.
2-Avoid peak hours when the sun is strongest (10 am – 4 pm)
3-Wear SPF clothing if you are going to be outside in the middle of the day
4-Reapply sunscreen every two hours, after you sweat, or go swimming
5-Even if it is cloudy you still need to protect yourself the same as if it was full sun.