Preventing Melanoma and Sun Exposure

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,496
    Tim Turnham, Ph.D., of the Melanoma Research Foundation, discusses ways to prevent your risk of melanoma through limiting your skin’s exposure to the sun.

    Tim Turnham: Hi! I am Tim Turnham with the Melanoma Research Foundation. Today, I am talking about melanoma. Now I want to talk about who is at risk and how you can prevent it.

    While some melanoma occurs in some people for reasons that no one completely understands. This much we do know. Over two-thirds of melanoma cases are caused by exposure to UV radiation. In fact, a single blistering sunburn as a child can double your risk of melanoma and going into tanning beds can triple your risk.

    The World Health Organization has classified UV lamps as a carcinogen in the same category as tobacco smoke. Despite this, most cities in the United States have more tanning solons than Starbucks. The single best step in lowering your risk of melanoma is to avoid social pressure to tan.

    Dr. Lynn Schuchter: There is clear that UV is a carcinogen that the sun causes skin cancer and caused the serious form of melanoma. So our advice and I think it's consistent amongst the medical community is that this should be viewed as a carcinogen and is dangerous and there is no safe tan.

    Tim Turnham: Use sunscreen with SPF of 50 or more. Even when going outdoors for routine trips like shopping or doing yard work, and use sunscreen properly. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside. Use about a shot glass worth of sunscreen covering all areas of the body that are exposed to the sun and reapply after two hours or after getting in the water, even if using waterproof sunscreen.

    Some other steps you can take include use sun protective clothing. Avoid going outside in the middle of the day when exposure to the UV radiation is the highest, and never ever go into a tanning bed.

    These are good rules for everyone to follow, but some people need to be particularly careful.

    Dr. Lynn Schuchter: So somebody with blue eyes, blonde hair, a tendency to burn, a tendency to freckle are at higher risk for developing melanoma, but still people love with my coloring, brown hair, brown eyes develop melanoma and actually there is more people with my coloring that develop melanoma, because there is more people with my coloring.

    Tim Turnham: If you have blood relatives who have had melanoma, you're at increased risk, and should have your skin checked at least once a year. This check should be done by a dermatologist who works with melanoma on a regular basis. You can get a referral from someone you know or call the American Academy of Dermatology for information on a dermatologist in your area.

    If you are fair skinned or have more than 50 moles, you're also at higher risk. People with fair skin have less natural protection from UV radiation. A tan is the body trying to stop the UV radiation from causing damage to DNA and skin cells. Also, moles are normal skin cells behaving abnormally.

    In the vast majority of cases this is harmless, but the higher the frequency, the more the likelihood that one of those abnormal behaviors will become something more sinister.

    If you would like to learn more, check out our other videos on melanoma, including common symptoms.