Five Ways to Reduce Melanoma and Skin Cancer Risk

Advances e-Newsletter, UW Carbone Cancer Center (June 2011)
Early diagnosis is critical to outcome, as the risk of metastasis and death increases with the depth of melanoma.

The identification of risk factors and high-risk populations for melanoma provide opportunities for both prevention as well as early diagnosis.

5 Ways to Protect Yourself

The "Slip-Slop-Slap" message from a health campaign in Australia contains 3 of our top 5 recommendations:

  1. Slip on a shirt: Many studies suggest the importance of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on the development of melanoma. Blistering sunburns, especially in childhood and adolescence, is an identified risk factor. Avoid blistering sunburns and avoid tanning parlors.
  2. Slop on sunscreen: Use a sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher in combination with sun protective behaviors during outdoor activities in the sun.
  3. Slap on a hat: Outdoor recreational habits that include intermittent high UVR exposure are associated with an increased melanoma risk. The wearing of protective clothing such as a hat and minimizing peak hours of sun exposure are examples of sun protective behavior.
  4. Know your melanoma risk: Risk factors for melanoma include a positive personal or family history of melanoma, multiple atypical or dysplastic nevi, light complexion, history of blistering sunburns or an inability to tan.
  5. Examine your skin: Regular self-skin examination can identify suspicious skin lesions. Melanomas are typically found in sun-exposed skin. However, melanoma can be found on any skin surface including areas with little or no history of sun exposure.

Signs You Should Talk With Your Doctor About

Pigmented skin lesions that demonstrate any of the following characteristics are all signs that a skin lesion should be immediately examined by a health care provider:

  • Asymmetry
  • Irregular or notched borders
  • Irregular distribution of color
  • Diameter of 6 mm (size of a pencil eraser) or greater
  • New elevation, erosion or evolving lesions

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