Check Your Skin for Melanoma Danger Signs

melanoma

Even though the weather isn’t cooperating — yet! — it is warming up and pretty soon we’ll be heading outdoors and into the sunshine for spring and summer activities. So now is the time to be mindful of skin cancer and specifically melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

We need to check our skin and our kids’ skin regularly for danger signs. The death of cultural icon Stuart McLean, following a losing battle with melanoma, is a reminder of why this is so important.

“While Mr. McLean’s death was a national tragedy, it was by no means a rarity,” says Canadian Dermatology Association president Dr. Mariusz Sapijaszko.“ It is estimated that in 2016, 6,800 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma and 1,200 died from the disease. And the numbers keep going up year after year.”

The early detection and timely treatment of melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer can lessen disfigurement and even prevent death in the case of melanoma.

As well, avoiding risky practices like tanning beds can reduce the likelihood that skin cancer will occur at all. Incidence rates of melanoma have increased in both men and women over the past several decades, with recent increases of 2.4% per year in men between 2001 and 2010, and 2.8% per year among women between 2004 and 2010.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation through exposure to sunlight, tanning beds and sun lamps appears to be a major risk factor for melanoma. Other risk factors include number and type of moles, having a fair complexion, personal and family history of skin cancer, a weakened immune system and a history of severe blistering sunburn.

Research shows those at risk for melanoma who had a friend or family member help with checking their skin found the disease at a much earlier stage and had a 63 per cent lower death rate compared to those who did not check their skin.

Some facts to remember:

– Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Canadians. It is also the most common cancer in the world.

– It is estimated that in 2016, 6,800 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma and 1,200 died from the disease

– Up to 70% of all melanomas are first identified by the patient themselves (53%) or close family members (17%).

More facts about skin cancer prevention can be found at the cda website, dermatology.ca.

melanoma

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