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With more sunny days ahead, experts say be aware of melanoma risk

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With more sunny days ahead, experts say be aware of melanoma risk
WATCH: With summer soon to be in full swing and many hot and sunny days expected, experts are emphasizing the need to protect yourself from the rays, which could lead to a dangerous form of cancer – Jun 14, 2024

With summer soon to be in full swing and many hot and sunny days expected, experts are emphasizing the need to protect yourself from the rays, which could lead to a dangerous form of cancer.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, more than 11,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma, and 1,300 will die. But when detected early, the five-year survival rate is 99 per cent.

Elizabeth Holmes of the Canadian Cancer Society says practicing sun safety is crucial.

“Check your UV index, seek shade when you can, cover up with clothing, wearing your hat, sunglasses, and using sunscreen properly on any skin exposed to sun,” Holmes said.

Local dermatologist Victoria Taraska says when it comes to applying sunscreen, the most common mistake people make is that they only apply it once if they are outdoors for an extended period of time.

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“Every two, four hours (to reapply),” said Taraska. “You want to do a shot glass of sunscreen to cover the whole body, so we usually tend to under-apply. And don’t forget about your lips and your ears, and go under your straps and bathing suits because those are frequently area people forget and they burn easily.”

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Taraska recommends using sunscreen with 30 SPF or higher, and for any bottle approved by the Canadian Dermatology Association. She says you need to protect yourself from a young age, as one sunburn as a child increases your risk of melanoma, and five sunburns increases your risk by 80 per cent.

One way to check for moles that could be a threat on your skin is by the “ABCDE” rule:

A – Asymmetry (if one half of the mole has a different shape than the other)
B – Border (if edges of the mole are uneven or irregular)
C – Colour (if the mole is different shades)
D – Diameter (if the mole is larger than six millimetres)
E – Evolving (if the mole changes shape and colours over time)

Holmes says if a mole meets any of these criteria, you should get it checked out.

According to Taraska, Manitoba is very under-served in dermatologists and the city and province should have double the dermatologists than they actually have.

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But she says family doctors can help and do a biopsy on a mole, and if melanoma is detected, then those patients would get care more urgently from a dermatologist than other forms of skin cancer.

 

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