Be a role model for generations to come: use best practices to prevent melanoma!
Cutaneous Melanoma Prevention & Early Detection
1. Wear sunscreen every day…even on cloudy days – Use a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30. “Broad spectrum” means that the sunscreen protects against both types of UV radiation – UVA and UVB.1 Each time you apply, use approximately one ounce (a shot-glassful) and apply it 15 minutes before sun exposure – then reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating
2. Wear protective clothing – Wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, whenever possible.1
3. Seek shade – The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.1 When it is not possible to stay in the shade, consider using an umbrella-they were initially created as a portable shade option.
4. Use extra caution near reflective environments – Water, snow and sand reflect and magnify the damaging rays of the sun, increasing your chance of sunburn when not using sunscreen.1
5. Do not burn –A history of repeat sunburns can increase your chances of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.2
6. Avoid intentional tanning and indoor tanning beds – Research suggests a strong dose-response relationship – meaning the more sessions, hours and years spent tanning, the higher the risk of developing melanoma and other types of skin cancer.3
EARLY DETECTION may save your life: You are most likely to first spot a melanoma on your skin. It’s important to know your skin and its moles and other characteristics so it’s easier to identify any changes early. Make monthly skin checks a regular part of your routine. Use a mirror or ask your partner to help check areas that are hard to see, such as your head, neck, and back.4 Use this Self Screening Guide for more tips and tricks to make skin checks easier.
Speak up if you find something: Too often we may notice something suspicious on our skin, yet we don’t prioritize having it evaluated by a health care provider. You would encourage your loved ones to have something checked out, so do the same for you: see your primary care provider or dermatologist right away if you notice any changes to a mole or your skin. Use the ABCDE’s of Melanoma to help monitor any changes. Seeing your provider for yearly professional skin checks may also be advised in some situations.4 Catching melanoma at an early stage is one of the most important factors in improving the outcome of a melanoma diagnosis.
What does melanoma look like? Melanoma and other skin cancers vary from person to person, but if you suspect that a spot on your skin fits the following descriptions, talk to your doctor right away. Note that not all skin cancers and melanomas fall into these categories, so just use this list as a guideline:
- A change on the skin – this could be a new spot, or a change in color, shape or size of a current spot
- A spot, sore or mole that doesn’t heal, becomes painful or tender
- A mole that becomes itchy or begins to bleed
- A spot, sore, mole or lump that looks shiny, waxy, smooth or pale
- A firm red lump that bleeds or appears ulcerated or crusty
- A flat, red spot that is rough, dry or scaly
- A black/dark spot or streak under a fingernail or toenail (that doesn’t come from previous trauma to the nail)5 6
Ocular Melanoma Prevention & Early Detection
Ocular melanoma (OM) is an aggressive form of melanoma and is the most common form of eye cancer in adults. It is diagnosed in approximately 2,000 Americans each year. There is no specific PREVENTION recommendations, but limiting UV exposure by wearing sunglasses may be helpful.7
OM is often detected during a routine eye exam, so scheduling your yearly exam that includes a dilated eye exam (starting at age 40) as recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology is the best form of EARLY DETECTION.8 Report any eye changes, such as the development of a dark spot (or a “freckle”) on your eye; vision changes such blurriness or a blind spot; the sensation of flashing lights; or a change in pupil shape. Diagnosing OM at an early stage is important for a better outcome.9
The MRF’s CURE OM initiative, which launched in 2011, works across the spectrum of melanoma and has a variety of programs in research, education and advocacy. You can show your support for CURE OM and its commitment to the ocular melanoma community by clicking here.
To learn more about the CURE OM initiative or to get involved, email [email protected].
Mucosal Melanoma Prevention & Early Detection
Mucosal melanoma is a rare form of melanoma that occurs in the mucosal surfaces of the body such as the sinuses, nasal passages, oral cavity, vagina, vulva, anus and other areas. Unlike most cases of melanoma of the skin, mucosal melanoma is not considered to be related to or affected by UV exposure. Additionally, there are no obvious identified risk factors, not even family history so PREVENTION strategies aren’t identified yet.10 Lacking an identifiable culprit and given its rare occurrence, most cases of mucosal melanoma are quite advanced once identified.
A variety of healthcare providers can and should be involved in the EARLY DETECTION of mucosal melanoma. Ear, nose and throat specialists (ENTs), OGBYNs, GI specialists and dentists can all help detect unusual spots that could be mucosal melanoma.
Content last updated April 2021
(2)Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/sk…tistics/behavior.htm
(3)Dennis LK, Vanbeek MJ, Beane Freeman LE, Smith BJ, Dawson DV, Coughlin JA. Sunburns and risk of cutaneous melanoma: does age matter? A comprehensive meta-analysis. Ann Epidemiol. 2008 Aug;18(8):614-27. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2008.04.006. PMID: 18652979; PMCID: PMC2873840.
(4)American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/cancer…aging/detection.html