May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month in the US and National Sun Awareness Week in Canada. Both are very meaningful public health education opportunities to learn how to play safe in the sun. Let’s review why skin cancer is important to monitor for, what to look for in a possible concerning spot on the skin, and what an individual can do for prevention.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide
In the US, about 8000 individuals die each year from melanoma (source: CDC)
In Canada, an estimated 8000 individuals would have been diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in 2020 (source: Canadian Cancer Society)
53% of melanomas are found by patients themselves, and a further 17% by their family members (source: Canadian Dermatology Association)
Early stage melanomas have more than 90% cure rate - checking the skin can lead to early detection and improved survival (source: Canadian Dermatology Association)
Most cases of melanoma are due to sun exposure - so protection and avoidance is critical!
Other risk factors can include: an individual with many moles, light-coloured skin/eyes/hair, and tanning bed use
A spot on the skin may be concerning and requires medical evaluation by your dermatologist or family physician - look for the ABCDEs of melanoma - asymmetry, border irregularity, colour changes, diameter of the spot greater than 6 mm, and evaluation (change in size, shape, if it bleeds etc.)
Check your skin regularly at home. A loved one can help check hard-to-see areas such as the back and scalp; another option is to stand in front of a full length mirror and use handheld mirrors to reflect from different angles to view all of the skin.
Use a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with minimum SPF 30 protection. Remember to apply generously and reapply after swimming, using a towel or a good workout.
Wear sun protective clothing or in general, clothing for protection. Examples include a wide-brimmed hat, wraparound sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts and pants
Minimize direct sun exposure on the skin whenever possible: seek shade and particularly during peak hours
Prevention is always the best medicine and skin cancers can be prevented!
In addition to the risk of skin cancer, cumulative sun exposure can lead to signs of premature aging such as wrinkles, unwanted pigmentation and a dull skin tone. These signs can make us look tired and sad - not the reflection of our inner vibrant, confident self. Treatments such as with a pigment-targeting or vascular laser and a curated skin care routine to complement sunscreen are strategies to improve aging features due to the sun.
Already being sun safe but seeing aging changes from UV exposure overtime? Speak to us at your next visit to review some customized options that can boost a healthy complexion.