It seems like just yesterday we were bracing ourselves for another bout of cold weather. But we woke up today with hopes of putting those memories behind us as we finally enter the month of May, which means more flowers in bloom and a return to warmer temperatures all thanks to a lot more sun in our lives.
And as much as we’re going to want to lay out in the sun to make up for lost time, there are a few things we need to bear in mind. May is Melanoma Awareness Month, it’s time to make sure you’re up-to-date on the most essential skin health information to protect yourself and the ones you love from skin cancer.
The Most Common Type of Cancer
According to the Save Your Skin Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that supports public melanoma awareness, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer with over 80,000 cases diagnosed in Canada each year. One of the most life-threatening of these cancers is metastatic melanoma, the aggressive form that tragically took the lives of 1,200 Canadians in 2017. And although skin cancer is 90% preventable, rates continue to rise in Canada and prevention awareness is still essential.
The Causes of Melanoma
Skin cancer is the result of overexposure to UV radiation, the most common sources being the sun and artificial tanning beds. One severe sunburn before the age of 18 doubles your chances of developing melanoma at some point during your life. And if you’re still using a tanning bed, now is absolutely the time to find a permanent alternative optionﾗtanning bed use before the age of 35 increases your melanoma risk by 74%.
The message is clear: There is no such thing as a safe tan.
How to Prevent Melanoma from Developing
It would be impossible (and not to mention unhealthy and totally depressing) to cut the sun out of your life entirely. You can still enjoy beautiful weather, you just need to follow a few easy steps in the interest of your health.
Protection is your number one prevention method. Wearing hats and shirts to cover your skin is key, as is seeking out shade especially during the period from 11:00am to 3:00pm when the sun is at its brightest.
Another crucial aspect of protection is wearing adequate sunscreen each and every day. It must have an SPF (or sun protection factor) of 30 or more and offer broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied as needed, usually every 2 hours. Best practice is to carry it with you so that you can reapply especially if an unplanned outdoor activity arises.
According to the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, if you can start early, it’s definitely beneficial. Regularly using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 before you turn 18 can dramatically reduce the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
So this May, help spread melanoma awareness by talking with your friends and family about the easy steps they can take to help prevent this deadly disease. It’s time to empower everyone to take action to stay healthy.