A broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and staying out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. go a long way toward preventing skin cancers, say dermatologists. (iStock)

Canadians warned against melanoma

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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.

Sunscreen and other preventive measures should be used year-round, say dermatologists. (iStock)

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.

Got a weird or changed mole? Get it checked soon, is the best advice. (iStock)

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.

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It best to show a changed or irregular-shaped mole to a dermatologist.

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One comment on “Canadians warned against melanoma
  1. Avatar Marc says:

    Canadians have health problems, and none of them are caused by sun exposure. Here are a few more facts you should know about the vital necessity of sun exposure:
    •Seventy-five percent of melanoma occurs on body areas that are seldom or never exposed to sun.
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
    •Sun deprivation leads to approximately the same increase in all-cause death as cigarette smoking.
    •Multiple sclerosis (MS) is highest in areas of little sunlight, and virtually disappears in areas of year-round direct sunlight.
    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as sun avoiders.
    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
    •An Iranian study showed that women who avoid sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer.
    •Regular, non-burning sun exposure can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 98%.
    •Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, essential to nerve function.
    •Sun exposure can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure.
    •For each death caused by diseases associated with sun exposure, there are 328 deaths caused by diseases associated with sun deprivation.
    More information: Sunlightinstitute.org, and read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s book, Embrace the Sun.