Lavinia Tofan
SHEC

With springtime looming just around the corner, many of you may be getting ready to escape from the frozen landscape we call home to a place with sunnier skies and warm waters. But before you do so, it is important to take all the necessary precautions in protecting your skin. This will not only protect you from uncomfortable sunburn, but also from possible serious consequences later on.

In 2007 it was estimated that 1 in 63 men and 1 in 79 women will develop melanoma in their lifetime. Melanoma is a cancer that is commonly found in individuals aged 15-29. It is one of the seven most frequently occurring cancers in Canada and the rates of melanoma have tripled in the past 30 years and are continuing to grow. Melanoma is the cancer of melanocytes, which are the cells in our bodies responsible for the pigmentation change of our skin when it is exposed to UV radiation. This is a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer because it can spread to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body. Early prevention measures and early detection are important.

One of the most common methods of skin protection from the harmful rays of the sun is the application of sunscreen. When looking for a sunscreen it is important to choose one that is broad spectrum (protects against both UVA and UVB sun rays), is over 30 SPF and is water resistant. Sunscreen must be applied every two hours and after swimming or high amounts of sweating. While it is important to wear sunscreen at all times, there are other precautions one can take to protect against the sun. This includes spending as much time as possible in the shade, covering skin with clothing, wearing sunglasses and hats and avoiding the sun during the noon hours when it is the strongest.

Melanoma has high rates of survival if it is discovered early. It is important to be familiar with your body and be on the lookout for any changes. In men, melanoma is commonly found on the head, neck and back whereas in women it is most often found on the back or lower legs. That being said, melanoma can be found anywhere on the body. When checking your body it is important to keep in mind the ABCDE’s of melanoma.

A for Asymmetry – One side of the mole is different from the other
B for Border – The border of the mole may be uneven
C for Colour – The mole may not be a uniform colour; it is commonly black but can be white, gray, blue or lacking colour
D for Diameter – The mole is bigger than 6mm
E for Evolution – The most important, checking previous moles for changes and be aware of new moles.

In our society, having suntanned skin has been linked to beauty. In reality, suntanned skin is considered to be damaged skin. It is wonderful to enjoy the sun and it also has benefits for us, but it is important to always be safe. One blistering sunburn can double your chances for developing melanoma. Take this into consideration in your everyday life during all seasons.

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