Healthy Living

5 Tips to Avoid Melanoma

5 Tips to Avoid Melanoma

Melanoma is a very common type of skin cancer. In some countries, melanoma rates are increasing despite the fact that it is one of the most preventable cancers. Some people face more risk of melanoma than others. Once you understand your risk, you will be more inclined to take preventive measures to avoid having melanoma.

Risk factors for melanoma:

  • Family history of melanoma
  • Having fair skin color
  • Having a very weak immune system
  • Having more than 50 moles all over the body or having one or more atypical moles
  • Prolonged and excessive exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays

You would have no choice if your parents or grandparents got melanoma, if you have fair skin, or have a large number of moles. Almost all of these risk factors are unavoidable, except the last one.

Five Tips to Avoid Melanoma

Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (from the sun or from tanning beds) is the most important risk factor for melanoma. Populations living in regions with lots of sunshine, such as countries near the equator, or at higher elevations, are at risk of melanoma. In most cases, the impact of excessive exposure to UV radiation on the skin tends to appear several years later.

You must follow these tips, especially if you have unavoidable melanoma risk factors. If you are residing in a sunny place and want to reduce your risk of melanoma, here are things you must always do daily:

Avoid Sunburn at All Cost

Avoid getting sunburnt, especially if you tend to burn your skin easily. Sunburns can increase your chances of having melanoma. Note that a ‘suntan’ inflicts the same damage on your skin as sunburn. Make sure to employ protection even if it is cloudy. Sunburn can still occur even on overcast days. This rule applies to adults and children. Cover up, use a sunscreen, or stay indoors.

Also, most people do not know that sand, water, and glass reflects and allows UV rays to burn your skin even if you stay in the shade. The sun’s rays are strongest at 9 am to 5 pm, so avoid going outdoors during these hours, or if you have to, make sure to employ protection.

Avoid Tanning Beds

We should be referring to tanning beds as melanoma beds. Tanning beds are sources of strong UV rays, which is the reason they cause a tan. Yes, many places swear that their tanning beds are ‘safe’ and pose no risk of cancer to patrons. Ask any doctor about the safety of tanning beds and the first thing they will say is that they are very dangerous. Tanning beds emit the same radiation levels as the sun, and often stronger. The U.S Department of Health has already declared that tanning beds and sun lamps are carcinogens, meaning they can cause cancer, especially for individuals aged 35 years old and below.

If you want to reduce your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers, completely avoid tanning beds and sun lamps. 

Wear Protective Clothing When Outdoors

Note that clothing offers better protection against the sun’s UV radiation than any sunscreen or lotion. You must wear protective clothing while outdoors to prevent much of the sun’s cancerous rays from reaching your skin. This applies to anyone whether his or her skin tone is fair, brown, or black. You need to wear clothing that shields you from the sun when doing activities like driving, or working near or over bodies of water. 

Any clothing that covers the skin protects you from the sun. Here is a good set of protective clothing that can shield your skin from UV radiation:

  • A wide-brimmed hat
  • UV-blocking sunglasses, preferably big ones that also cover the skin around the eyes
  • A long-sleeved shirt
  • Long pants

Choose Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen and Apply Them Correctly

Sunscreen protects exposed skin from harsh UV radiation, and regular users have a lesser risk of developing skin cancers compared to others. There are plenty of sunscreens out there, and many of them provide adequate protection. Choose a product with SPF 50 or higher. You might get confused on whether to use a sunscreen or a sunblock, but essentially both are the same. Sunscreens contain ingredients that reduce UV absorption in the skin, and they are easy to apply and not greasy. Sunblock’s contain titanium oxide or zinc oxide that essentially cover the skin and shield it from the sun, however, some users find them messy.

Whether you use sunscreen or sunblock, the way you use it matters the most. Apply the product generously and 15 minutes before going out so it can be absorbed through the skin. Adults generally need at least an ounce of lotion to cover exposed skin. Always apply sunscreen or sunblock on bare skin, and apply them before makeup. If you are planning on swimming, choose a ‘water-proof’ sunblock or sunscreen that does not wash away easily. Make sure to apply again after two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating.

Have Your Skin Examined at Least Yearly

This may be the most important tip in avoiding melanoma. A whole body skin check enables the dermatologist to monitor moles, and determine if a biopsy is needed for any suspicious lesions. If there is a lesion highly suspected to be melanoma, a simple biopsy effectively removes it. Once the lesion is removed, no further treatments are needed. To prevent the onset of melanoma, frequent removal of moles is not routinely practiced. Some melanomas come from moles but most of them do not. If the patient has numerous moles, doctors recommend regular visits to the dermatologist along with monthly self-examinations of the skin’s surface. Have a whole body skin check at least yearly, especially if you are deemed high-risk or have a history of melanoma.

The chances of getting melanoma and other kinds of cancer exponentially rise if you have a weak immune system. Many people who have undergone organ transplants, or those with autoimmune diseases are required to take immunosuppressive medication. People undergoing chemotherapy as cancer treatment also have weakened immune systems. Such people will be better off taking the medication rather than worry about getting skin cancer.