May 1, 2012
May is national melanoma awareness month. It is also the time of year where the days start to get longer and the weather warmer. Dr. Scott Ernst, Head of Medical Oncology at London Health Sciences Centre’s London Regional Cancer Program, reminds people that as we welcome the rising temperatures, sun protection and skin surveillance should be top-of-mind.
“Melanoma is one of the most rapidly rising cancers,” says Dr. Ernst. “It’s expected that there will be 5,500 new cases in Canada this year. While genetics plays a significant role in development of melanoma, intermittent and chronic sun exposure is an important risk factor for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. There are a lot of simple, practical things that people can do to protect themselves and reduce their risk of developing melanoma.”
Practical sun safety tips that should be applied year-round include:
- Limit exposure to the sun, especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Wear a hat and protective clothing
- Use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 on all exposed skin
- Sunscreen should be reapplied every couple hours or following exposure to water or excessive sweating
Dr. Ernst notes that, “it’s important to remember that all skin types are vulnerable to sun damage. You can have sun damage without the presence of a sunburn.”
In addition to sun protection, skin surveillance is an important practice that people should adopt. People should regularly monitor their skin, including their backs, and check for any additions or changes in birthmarks, beauty marks, moles, etc. Even subtle changes in size, shape or colour can be a sign of a problem and should be brought to the attention of your doctor.
“Spring is an ideal time to remind people of the critical importance of sun protection and skin surveillance. It’s the time of year when many people begin to spend more time outdoors. Although skin never forgets, it’s never too late to begin to practice safe sun habits,” says Dr. Ernst.
You can learn more about how you can prevent and detect melanoma at our upcoming free public education session, on Wednesday, May 16. More information about that session, which is being offered in partnership with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, will be available on our website in the coming weeks.