Canadians live in northern latitudes where the sun is not as strong, but they still face a risk of getting skin cancer, say dermatologists. It’s World Melanoma Day and spring means people are spending more time outdoors and shedding the clothing that might protect them from the sun’s harmful rays.
Hundreds die of melanoma annually
“Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer,” says Dr. Julia Carroll, a dermatologist on the board of the Canadian Dermatology Association. “In Canada, we know that there is an estimated 1,240 deaths from melanoma (yearly) and men comprise about 790 of those and women 450…
“So, 80 to 90 per cent of skin cancers including melanoma are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation…that can come from tanning beds or regular exposure to sunlight. These are all risk factors for cellular damage.”
Many are aware, but what are they doing?
Many Canadians are aware of the risk, according to an annual survey commissioned by the association in 2018. Results show that there was an increase from 2017 in the number of Canadians who said it’s important to stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. In 2018, three-quarters said it is important to use sunscreen and almost 90 per cent reported using sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Nearly 60 per cent said they conduct self -examination of their skin and a third said they ask their doctor or dermatologist to conduct skin examinations.
Use sunscreen every day, say doctors
But the survey also showed that only one in five people use sunscreen daily and the number of people who use sunglasses with UV protection is down from 2017. Dermatologists say Canadians should protect themselves from skin cancer all year around.
They recommend seeking shade between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., wearing protecting clothing, a wide brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses and using sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
People should check their own skin regularly
They add that early detection is key and everyone should regularly check their skin and if they spot something suspicious to have it checked by a certified dermatologist. Warning signs include a change in an existing mole, development of a new coloured growth on the skin, moles with irregular shapes, irregular borders, a change in colour, new growth in a mole larger than 6 mm.
If caught early, melanoma can be treated, says Carroll. “So, preventing it, monitoring for it and then bringing it to your doctor’s attention as soon as you notice a change is so important because with those three things we can easily decrease the burden that we have from melanoma.”
Dr. Julia Carroll says melanoma can be deadly but it can be prevented and treated if detected early enough.Listen