Melanoma Prevention: Summer is upon us and most of us are ready to enjoy time outside soaking up the warmth and sunshine. More time outdoors often means extra physical activity, and relaxation … listening to the sounds of summer – all of which are good for our mental and physical health. But as we know, the sun isn’t always our skin’s best friend. Sun exposure can increase the risk of the most dangerous types of skin cancer – malignant melanoma. An estimated 7,200 Canadians were diagnosed with the disease in 2017 alone.
That’s why we’ve compiled tips from our Wello Nurse Practitioners for detecting, preventing and receiving proper melanoma treatment.
Melanoma Awareness: Prevention
There are a number of preventative actions you and your family can take to reduce the risk of melanoma:
#1: Avoid exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun
There are two types of UV rays which can damage the skin – (a) UVA rays are those responsible for aging your skin and can reach your skin [by penetrating] through clouds, smog and even glass, and (b) UVB rays are those responsible for tanning or burning your skin when your skin is exposed to sunlight on a sunny day.
#2: Wear protective clothing including sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats
#3 Always wear broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher
#4: Avoid exposure to the mid-day sun
#5: Stay away from tanning beds
Even one indoor tanning session can increase your risk of melanoma by 20 percent and the risk increases with each use.
#6: For children, good habits are formed early
Prevention is especially important for children. In-depth research reviews have found that frequent sunburns, or even just one severe sunburn during childhood, can double a child’s chance of developing melanoma later on in life. As well, sun behaviours established early in life have been shown to influence those adopted in adolescence and adulthood.
#7: Know when you’re at increased risk
Additional factors that could put you and your family at higher risk for melanoma also include fair skin, red or blonde hair, a history of skin cancer in family members or having many pre-existing moles.
Melanoma Awareness: Detection
It’s important to know what to look for to detect melanoma. Early detection can prevent and reduce further complications.
Melanoma Self Examination
- One way to undertake early detection is using skin self-examination. When doing a self-examination, all areas of skin should be examined, including your back, scalp and nails as well as the back of your neck, ears and legs. It may be necessary to ask a professional to help you examine these areas correctly.
Warning signs to look for include any unusual appearance or significant change in the appearance of a mole. An easy way to review a mole is to use the “ABCDE rule” and check for the following irregularities – Asymmetry, irregular Border, change in Colour, increase in Diameter and Evolution or change.
Moles are not the only skin considerations for melanoma. For example, any new growth on your skin that seems abnormal, including ones that have pearly nodules or anything with a crust or scaly patches should be examined. Look for any odd sores that have not healed or patches of skin that bleed, itch or become red.
Talk to a Wello Nurse Practitioner
If you are unsure, be sure to reach out to a Wello Nurse Practitioner for medical support. They can diagnose and treat many conditions over video and can provide specialist referrals when medically appropriate.
Melanoma Awareness: Management
Managing melanoma depends on its location and staging. In stages one and two the usual treatment is wide excision, a surgery that removes the melanoma and the skin around it. A lymph node biopsy may also be done and if positive for cancer cells, then a full lymph node dissection may be recommended. In more advanced stages of melanoma, immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be advised.
If you are concerned about any changes in a mole or any persistent new growth on your skin, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional. Wello is here to help and video appointments are a convenient and highly effective way to detect abnormalities on your skin and determine what next steps should be done.
While melanoma is a serious cancer, simple steps can be taken to prevent or detect it early. We all love the sun and a few easy practices can have a huge impact on our lives to ensure everyone can enjoy the warmer weather to its fullest.
Want to get more “keep well” tips from our Wello Nurse Practitioners?