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Reducing your risk for melanoma

You may lower your risk of developing melanoma by doing the following.

Protect yourself and your children from the sun

The best way to lower your risk of developing skin cancer is to protect yourself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Check the daily UV Index. Listen to the weather forecast to find out how strong the sun will be each day. Try to reduce your time in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more. In Canada the UV Index can be 3 or more from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between April and September, even when it’s cloudy.

Seek shade or create your own shade. Cover up as much of your skin as you can with tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing. Wear a hat with a wide brim that covers your head, face, ears and neck. Wear close-fitting sunglasses in a wraparound style with UVA and UVB protection. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

Take extra care when enjoying outdoor summer and winter sports such as swimming, skiing, and snowboarding. UV rays from the sun can be reflected by water, sand, pavement, snow and ice.

Protecting children from the sun may greatly reduce their lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. Protect babies from direct sunlight by keeping them in a covered stroller, under an umbrella or in the shade. Try to set a good example. If you practise sensible sun habits, your children will too.

Find out more about sun and UV.

Don’t use indoor tanning equipment

Indoor tanning equipment, such as tanning beds or sun lamps, gives off UV radiation that is up to 5 times stronger than the midday sun on a summer day. The Canadian Cancer Society believes that people under the age of 18 should not be allowed by law to use indoor tanning equipment.

Find out more about indoor tanning.

Check your skin regularly

Talk to your doctor about what to look for and check your skin regularly. When melanoma is found early, there is a better chance that it can be treated successfully.

Make sure that you or someone else checks hard-to-see places, such as your back, the back of your neck, your ears and the backs of your legs.

Watch for the following signs of melanoma:

  • any change in the shape, colour, size or surface of a birthmark or a mole
  • any sore that doesn’t heal
  • any patch of skin that bleeds, oozes, swells, itches or becomes red and bumpy

Find out more about checking your skin. If you notice changes or are confused about what you should be looking for, ask your doctor for help.

Find out if you’re at high risk

Some people have a higher than average risk for melanoma. Talk to your doctor about your risk. If it’s higher than average, you may need to have your skin checked regularly by a healthcare professional.


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