Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dr Paul Lubitz: Remember Melanoma Awareness Starts with ‘Me’

It’s a little known fact that melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in women aged 25 through 29. According to the Cure Melanoma Organization, one person dies every hour from this often-preventable disease.

May happens to be Melanoma Awareness month. The month is meant to spark conversation around this common cancer and encourage people to check their skin and visit a dermatologist regularly for their skin examinations.

One of the most notable initiatives during the May awareness campaign is Melanoma Monday. Held on the first Monday of the month, the event sees members of the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) visit Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital to provide skin cancer screenings for all Members of Parliament, Senators and their staff.

The annual May event highlights the importance of skin monitoring and draws nationwide media coverage, which the organization uses to promote skin cancer awareness. This year’s key area of focus is the dangers of tanning beds.

Ahead of this year’s event in Ottawa, the CDA released a video aimed at teenagers and tanning bed users. Capitalizing on Prom Season, the video entitled "You Got into That Bed", is a clever and informative discussion about the risks associated with tanning beds.

The video aims to drive home the important statistic that sunbed use before the age of 35 years increases the risk of melanoma by an incredible 35 percent.

"It seemed like a natural fit for us," said Dr. Vince Bertucci, President of the CDA, "targeting Canada's most important leaders, our elected officials, with one of Canada's most at-risk populations, teenagers. In this way we hope to avert tragedy in both current and future leaders."

In Canada and across the globe, skin cancer is the most common and prevalent form of cancer in humans. The number of those diagnosed with Melanoma and other forms of skin cancer such as Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas continues to grow each year with roughly 85,100 new cases diagnosed in 2015.

At this point, you may be asking, “Dr Paul Lubitz, what should I do to protect myself?”

As this year’s Melanoma Awareness Campaign points out, avoiding all exposure to tanning bed rays is the first step in protecting your body’s largest organ.

Routine checks for changing moles, skin discoloration, easy bruising and other skin abnormalities are also key components to preventing skin cancer. Research indicates that high-risk patients (people who spend a lot of time in the sun, have a history of skin cancer in their family, or have a fair skin type) that routinely perform skin checks are much more likely to find any skin cancers including Melanoma in its earlier stages. Consequently, by having their skin cancer detected early, their chances of dying from the cancer were reduced by as much as a 63 percent.

Today, there are even mobile apps you can download on your phone or tablet that can help you track and monitor mole growth, colour, size and other changes. This data can be compared over time so you can stay on top of your skin health.

The regular application of sunscreen (an SPF of + 50 is recommended for the Bow Valley), wearing sun protective head gear and clothing while in the sun, and avoiding excessive sun exposure in the peak 10 – 2 hours of the day, are all important behaviours that will further reduce your risks of developing skin cancer. 

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