Prevention & Risk Factors for Melanoma

Melanoma is a serious disease, but when found early it is easier to treat. You can also take measures to protect yourself from getting the disease in the first place. The only known risk factor for melanoma that you can control is how much exposure you get to ultraviolet (UV) light.

To limit how much UV light hits your skin and help prevent melanoma from developing, follow these common-sense guidelines:

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or above. (“Broad spectrum” means that it protects against both forms of UV rays, UVA and UVB. You can look for this term on the bottle’s label — it should be clearly marked.)
  • Avoid staying outdoors for long periods of time and seek shade whenever possible, even if you are wearing sunscreen. This applies especially to the middle of the day, when the sun is at its most intense. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants that block the sun, wide-brimmed hats, and glasses with UV protection.
  • Avoid tanning. Tanning is the body’s response to injury caused by UV rays. There’s no such thing as a healthy tan. Indoor tanning beds and booths are also dangerous sources of the harmful UV radiation associated with the development of skin cancer and certain forms of conjunctival melanoma.
  • Stay alert to changes in your eyes and vision
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection when you’re outside
The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer lists UV light as carcinogenic to humans, which means it has the potential to cause cancer, whether it’s from the sun or from tanning devices that emit UV rays.

Stay Alert to Skin Changes

Pay attention to any changes on your skin by inspecting it on a regular basis, particularly if you have risk factors for developing melanoma.

Once a month, examine your skin in front of a mirror. Look closely from head to toe for changes in existing moles or the appearance of new ones. Use the ABCDE method to look for signs of suspicious skin changes. Also talk with your doctor about setting up regular skin screenings with a dermatologist and whether you should consider other early-detection methods.

If you do notice unusual changes in your skin, speak with you doctor right away. Your best chance for a good overall result is to have your skin examined and treated right away.