Reducing Your Risk of Melanoma

Protecting your skin and checking it for changes are keys to preventing melanoma or catching one in an early, treatable stage.

Avoid Exposure to the Sun

Exposure to ultraviolet rays produced by the sun increases your risk of melanoma. Here’s how to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays:

  • Cover your skin with clothing, including a shirt and a hat with a broad brim.
  • When outside, try to sit in shady areas.
  • Avoid exposing your skin to the sun between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. standard time or 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daylight saving time.
  • Use broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more on skin that will be exposed to the sun.
  • Wear sunglasses with 99% or 100% UV absorption to protect your eyes.
  • Don't use sun lamps or tanning booths.

Check Your Skin for Abnormal-Looking Moles

Check your skin regularly and have someone help you check areas you can’t see (your back and buttocks, scalp, underneath the breasts of women, the backs of the legs). If you notice a new, changing or an irregular-looking mole (eg, large, irregular shape with a border that is not smooth and even, more than one color, irregular texture), show it to a doctor experienced in recognizing skin cancers, such as a dermatologist. Your doctor may monitor the mole or recommend removing it. In almost all cases, if you are given the choice to watch or remove a mole, you should have it removed. It can’t transform into a cancerous growth if it is gone.

If you have a condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome, you should have your dermatologist check your skin regularly for atypical moles.

References:

American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp .

Detailed guide: skin cancer—melanoma. Can melanoma be prevented? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_2x_Can_Melanoma_Be_Prevented_50.asp?sitearea . Accessed: September 22, 2008.

National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/ .



Last reviewed July 2008 by Ross Zeltser, MD, FAAD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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