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What Can Be Done To Prevent Melanoma

Get Skin Cancer Screenings

Cancer Prevention and Healthy Living

Even if you dont have any skin concerns, its a good idea to have yearly skin cancer screening checks with a dermatologist. Theyll be able to see areas of your body you cant easily monitor.

A dermatologist will also be able to evaluate any moles or other skin growths for the possibility of skin cancer. If a mole has suspicious features and looks like it may be malignant , removing it early may prevent it from spreading to other areas of your body.

Determine Your Skin Cancer Risk

The guidelines above apply to everyone, but certain individuals are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer and should be especially cautious with sun exposure.

If any of the descriptions below apply to you, see a dermatologist for a full-body examination once a year. Skin cancer risk is cumulative. The more risk factors you have and the more sun damage over a lifetime the higher your risk.

Skin cancer risk factors include:

  • Personal history of skin cancer or precancerous skin lesions
  • Tendency to freckle or burn easily
  • Lots of sun exposure throughout your life
  • Many sunburns as a child or adolescent
  • Family history of skin cancer or conditions that are more likely to develop into skin cancer, such as dysplastic nevus syndrome or numerous atypical moles
  • Chronic, non-healing wounds or burn injuries
  • Radiation therapy
  • Exposure to toxic materials, such as arsenic
  • Exposure to certain subtypes of human papilloma virus . HPV 6,11,16 and 18 have been linked to the development of squamous cell carcinoma, especially in patients with compromised immune systems.
  • Organ transplant patients on immunosuppressant drugs have an increased risk of skin cancer

What Causes Skin Cancer

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. UV radiation can also come from tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps.

Anyone can get skin cancer. Youre at higher risk if you have:

  • Fair skin with freckles
  • Blond or red hair
  • Blue or green eyes

Youre at increased risk for melanoma, one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer, if you have:

  • Unusual moles
  • A large number of moles
  • A family history of melanoma or unusual moles
  • Fair skin that burns easily
  • A personal history of many blistering sunburns, especially when you were a child or teenager

Find out more about unusual moles and melanoma risk. And be sure to talk with your doctor or nurse if you have any concerns.

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Supplements That May Help

Though in most instances nutritionists prefer you get your nutrients from foods rather than supplements, two antioxidant supplements have recently produced impressive evidence as skin cancer fighters.

Nicotinamide is a form of vitamin B3. Several studies by Diona Damian, MD, and colleagues in Australia have catapulted nicotinamide into the public consciousness, sparking a run on vitamin supplement shelves. Her studies have revealed that nicotinamide reduces the rate of new skin precancers, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas by 23 percent in patients with a history of these lesions. She has also done early research suggesting that nicotinamide may provide similar benefits to melanoma patients.

When UV damages the skin, DNA repair enzymes in the skin launch into repairing the damage, but never succeed in fixing all of it. The remaining damage can lead to skin aging and skin cancers. However, both oral and topical nicotinamide replenish energy supplies in the skin that get depleted by these repairs. In this way, they bolster the immune systems ability to fix the damage. Also, UV radiation itself suppresses the immune system, and nicotinamide reduces this suppression.

While the research has only used supplements, nicotinamide is also naturally present in small quantities in yeast, lean meats, fish, nuts and legumes.

What Is The Best Type Of Sunscreen

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In Australia, we have very strict guidelines for sunscreen. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50+ every two hours and after swimming or exercise. The following points will help you ensure that you get the best possible

  • Use the sunscreen with the highest possible
  • protects you against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Typically, we only use 25-50% of the amount of sunscreen we need to be protected , often missing entire areas of our bodies. When too little sunscreen is applied , it reduces the sun protection factor significantly, e.g. SPF30+ may only work as SPF10.
  • Ensure that all exposed skin is thoroughly covered with sunscreen.
  • If you are in the water, ensure you use a water-resistant variety of sunscreen and re-apply regularly, at least every two-hours.

All sunscreens on the Australian market are highly regulated , and there is indisputable scientific evidence that sunscreen helps protect against UV damage, the greatest risk factor for developing melanoma which kills one Australian every five hours.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers first appear as a spot, lump or scaly area on the skin, or a mole that changes colour, size or shape over several weeks or months. These changes can appear anywhere on the body, particularly areas frequently exposed to the sun. Skin cancers may bleed and become inflamed, and can be tender to the touch.

There are certain characteristics to look for in spots and moles. Remember the ‘ABCDE’ of skin cancer when checking your skin:

  • Asymmetry does each side of the spot or mole look different to the other?
  • Border is it irregular, jagged or spreading?
  • Colours are there several, or is the colour uneven or blotchy?
  • Diameter look for spots that are getting bigger
  • Evolution is the spot or mole changing or growing over time?

Changes may include an area that is scaly, shiny, pale or bright pink in colour, or a spot or lump that grows quickly and is thick, red, scaly or crusted.

See your doctor if you notice any new spots or an existing spot that changes size, shape or colour over several weeks or months. Your doctor can help you distinguish between a harmless spot such as a mole, and a sunspot or irregular mole that could develop later into skin cancer.

How Skinvision Can Help You

SkinVision enables you to check your skin spots for signs of skin cancer within 30 seconds. Our algorithm is currently at the level of a specialist dermatologist.In skin spots with a potential health risk, SkinVision provides feedback about the preferred next step to take.

SkinVision also enables you to store photos to keep track of changes over time, helping you to monitor your health in the long term.

The efficient and easy-to-use solution is available for iOS and Android and helps to make skin monitoring a simple routine.

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Avoid Tanning Beds And Sun Lamps

Tanning salons are on the decline in most places, and thats a very good thing. If you enjoy sunning yourself under the electric lights now and then, its time to kick that habit for good.

Tanning beds and sun lamps give off UV rays just as the sun does, and they have been absolutely linked to the development of melanoma. The risk of skin cancer is particularly high if you begin using tanning beds before the age of 30, but tanning is never a safe hobby.

Photo Credit: InnerVisionPRO /

Can I Get Skin Cancer On Parts Of My Body That Aren’t Exposed To The Sun

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Yes. Although we often don’t think of the skin as an organ in the same way as we would the heart or the liver, it’s actually the body’s largest organ. That’s why it’s very important to check every inch of your skin, even in the genital region, underneath the breast line and between your toes. Remember, exposure to the sun is not the only cause of melanoma, just the most preventable one.

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Avoid The Sun As Much As Possible When The Sun Is Strong

If it is very hot and sunny, wherever you live, stay in the shade or indoors as much as possible between 11 am and 3 pm in the summer months . This applies all year round in hotter countries nearer to the equator. This middle time of the day is when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Trees, umbrellas and canopies can all provide good shade.

Seek Shade In On Sunny Days

Taking in a bit of sun is fine , but you need to choose your time wisely. The sun is at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in North America. During this time it is best to stay under the cover of an umbrella, leafy tree, or pavilion roof. Even on cloudy days when your risk of burning is lower, UV rays will continue to reach you and cause damage to your skin. Its important to plan activities around this danger zone, staying under cover until the sun begins to fall in the sky. Also, be sure to apply your sunscreen 20 minutes before you step into the light.

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Skip The Tanning Beds

Tanning beds can severely increase the risk of developing skin cancer. The radiation from using a tanning bed can be more intense than that produced by the sun. On average, using a tanning bed can make you 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. Even occasional exposure can increase the risk of developing melanoma, which is one of the most serious types of skin cancer. Tanning beds are an unnecessary risk avoid them whenever possible.

Ways To Protect Your Skin

Preventing cancer

Overexposure to ultraviolet light causes 95% of melanoma. The best way to prevent melanoma is to protect your skin from the sun by following the five sun safe rules:

Seek shade, especially in the hottest part of the day.

Wear sun-protective clothing that covers your back, shoulders, arms and legs.

Wear a broad-brimmed hat.

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50+ every 2 hours and after swimming or exercise.

Wear wrap-around sunglasses.

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Avoiding Risk Factors And Increasing Protective Factors May Help Prevent Cancer

Avoiding cancerrisk factors may help prevent certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.

Get An Annual Checkup

One good way of staying ahead of changes to your skin is seeing a dermatologist regularly. It can be hard to know what to look for if you lack the training. For instance, what may seem like an atypical mole to the average person may be an early sign of melanoma. Make annual appointments to catch changes to your skin early.

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Sunshine And Vitamin D

Vitamin D is vital for good health. Vitamin D is made in the skin with the help of sunlight. Sunlight is actually the main source of vitamin D, as there is very little found in the foods that we eat.

This means that to be healthy you need a certain amount of sun exposure. There is concern that some people may go to the extreme of avoiding the sun altogether and then become deficient in vitamin D. The aim is to enjoy the sun sensibly, so as to make enough vitamin D, whilst not increasing the risk of skin cancer.

It is estimated that, to prevent deficiency of vitamin D, we need 2-3 sun exposures per week in the summer months . Each exposure should last 20-30 minutes and be to bare arms and face. Short frequent periods of time in the sun are much more beneficial than long periods of time. It needs to be exposure to direct sunlight and not through a window. It is not the same as suntanning and sunburn should be avoided at all costs.

The information above mainly applies to the skin cancer types basal cell carcinomas and, to a lesser extent, melanoma.

What Are The Signs Of Melanoma

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Knowing how to spot melanoma is important because early melanomas are highly treatable. Melanoma can appear as moles, scaly patches, open sores or raised bumps.

Use the American Academy of Dermatology’s “ABCDE” memory device to learn the warning signs that a spot on your skin may be melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: One half does not match the other half.
  • Border: The edges are not smooth.
  • Color: The color is mottled and uneven, with shades of brown, black, gray, red or white.
  • Diameter: The spot is greater than the tip of a pencil eraser .
  • Evolving: The spot is new or changing in size, shape or color.

Some melanomas don’t fit the ABCDE rule, so tell your doctor about any sores that won’t go away, unusual bumps or rashes or changes in your skin or in any existing moles.

Another tool to recognize melanoma is the ugly duckling sign. If one of your moles looks different from the others, its the ugly duckling and should be seen by a dermatologist.

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Top 7 Things That Increase Your Risk Of Melanoma And Other Skin Cancers

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or seek care at an emergency room.

More people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer than any other form of cancer. Fortunately, most skin cancers are easily treated if caught early. Thats why its important to understand what factors increase your risk of skin cancer. If you know you are at a high risk of skin cancer, you can take proactive measures to lower your risk and follow screening precautions that might save your life.

Can Changing My Diet Help Prevent Melanoma

The American Cancer Society advocates eating a plant-based diet over an animal-based diet as part of a healthy plan to avoid all cancers. Growing evidence suggests that plants pack a powerful punch in any fight against cancer because they’re nutritious, cholesterol-free and fiber-rich.

Theres no doubt that a healthy diet can protect your immune system. Having a strong immune system is important to help your body fight disease. Some research has shown that a Mediterranean diet is a healthy choice that may help prevent the development of cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about the role food plays in lowering your cancer risks.

Some skin and immune-system healthy foods to consider include:

  • Daily tea drinking: The polyphenols in tea help strengthen your immune system. Green tea contains more polyphenols than black tea.
  • High vegetable consumption: Eating carrots, cruciferous and leafy vegetables is linked to the prevention of cutaneous melanoma.
  • Weekly fish intake: Study participants who ate fish weekly seemed to avoid developing the disease when compared to those who did not eat fish weekly.

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Can Eye Cancer Be Prevented

We do not yet know what causes most eye cancers, so it is not yet possible to prevent them.

We know there is a link between sunlight and melanomas of the skin, and there are things you can do that might reduce your risk of these cancers, including limiting your exposure to intense sunlight, covering up with protective hats and clothing, and using sunscreen.

The American Cancer Society also recommends wearing UV-protected sunglasses when outside in strong sunlight. Wrap-around sunglasses with 99% to 100% UVA and UVB absorption provide the best protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin. This might help reduce the risk of developing cancers of the skin around the eyes. The link between sunlight and eye melanomas is not proven, but some doctors think that sunglasses might also reduce eye melanoma risk.

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Grisanti S, Tura A. Uveal Melanoma. In Scott JF, Gerstenblith MR, eds. Noncutaneous Melanoma . Brisbane : Codon Publications 2018 Mar. Available from: doi: 10.15586/codon.noncutaneousmelanoma.2018.

Last Revised: November 30, 2018

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.

What Are The Different Types Of Skin Cancer

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When skin cancer develops, the type of cells it affects determines what kind of cancer it is. For example:

  • Skin cancer that develops in the basal cells is known as basal cell carcinoma. Its the most common form of skin cancer and is also the slowest growing.
  • Skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells is known as squamous cell carcinoma. It often shows up as red, scaly lesions or sores on the skin. This type of skin cancer usually isnt life threatening, but it can become dangerous if its left untreated.
  • Skin cancer that develops in the melanocytes is called melanoma. This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Its more likely to spread than basal and squamous cell skin cancers. It causes the majority of skin cancer deaths each year.

While some types of skin cancer have a genetic component, there are a lot of things you can do to prevent skin cancer from developing.

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How To Prevent Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Squamous cell carcinomas have a number of causes, only one of which is sunlight. Other causes are:

In terms of preventing squamous cell carcinomas, you should not smoke and only drink in moderation. If you are on medications that suppress the immune system and you notice a growth on your skin, you should get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible. This is particularly true if you have had an organ transplant and are on anti-rejection medication.


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