Here are a few tips to avoid melanoma now that spring has sprung.
The first rays of sunshine have already made their appearance in Belgium these past weeks. It's perfect weather for showing off one's legs and shoulders, but in moderation, and above all with protection! It's also the opportunity for Institut Jules Bordet, a centre specialised in the fight against cancer, to go over the basics of sun protection. While we all know we should stay in the shade, cover up and use sun cream, it's also important to do it correctly.
The majority of melanomas are due to the sun.
TRUE! 90% of cases of melanoma are due to the sun. Light-coloured skin and skin with a lot of moles have an increased risk. So, remember to protect yourself with sun cream and to head to the shade now and then. The type of exposure also plays an important role in these figures. In fact, intermittent acute exposure, in other words recreational and high exposure of skin which is not used to the sun the rest of the year, causes an increased risk of melanoma. Without hiding from the sun, which is also a source of vitamin D, remember that too much is harmful!
"When I go swimming, waterproof sun cream and a T-shirt are my allies."
TRUE & FALSE! A T-shirt is a good idea, especially for children, but it must be suitable for swimming. In fact, when cotton T-shirts are wet, they let UV rays through, which are responsible for melanoma. As for waterproof sun cream, remember to apply it again after swimming, because sea water and the act of drying remove the cream. Also remember to inform your children about sun protection. Studies show that excessive exposure of immature skin to the sun's rays, in other words before the age of 12, increases the risks of melanoma in adults. Teaching young children the right reflexes in the sun is a good way of protecting them for the future.
"If I tan without burning, there is no risk of melanoma."
FALSE! Sunburn clearly indicates a risk to the skin. But tanning in itself is already the sign that the cells have been damaged. If we tan, it means that the protection was insufficient. And if you have had severe sunburn that you can still remember, it's a sign that your protection habits were not sufficient to provide effective protection. Use a minimum factor 30 sun cream, depending on your skin type.
The ABCDE method
This invididual method to test a suspicious blemish on your skin can detect early melanoma. If a blemish is Asymmetric (A), with irregular Borders (B), uneven Colour (C), a large Diameter (D) and it Evolves (E), then consult your GP or dermatologist. If a melanoma is detected early on, it can be cured in nearly 100% of cases with simple surgery. But to avoid that, protecting yourself from the sun is the best form of prevention.