Dr. JENNIFER PEARLMAN
Women’s health, hormone and beauty expert
Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is on the rise. The incidence of melanoma has nearly doubled over the past forty years despite the now widespread use of sunscreens. Melanoma is one of the most common forms of cancer diagnosed before age 35 years of age. Read on for some surprising new findings and my top tips to reduce your risk this summer.
1. REDUCE UVA EXPOSURE WITH A BROAD SPECTRUM SUNSCREEN
While melanoma risk is linked with sun and UV exposure, there is at present little evidence that traditional sunscreens that filter UVB rays, prevent melanoma. A 2006 US Environmental Protection Agency publication concludes; “there is no evidence that sunscreens protect you from malignant melanoma.” (Source: JABFM)
UVB rays are those that tan and burn while UVA is more damaging to the skin causing photoaging, melanoma and non-melanoma cancers. UVA’s harmful effects are thought to be only partly from direct DNA damage but also due to oxidative and free radical damage and depletion of vitamin D. New science suggests sunscreens that filter UVA including zinc and titanium dioxide may provide more protection from the harmful effects of the sun and reduce the risk of melanoma. So select your sunscreen with care and ensure it provides broad spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB.
2. BOOST YOUR DIET WITH OMEGA 3 SUPPLEMENTS
The essential fatty acids in OMEGA 3 supplements (EPA and especially DHA) may offer further protection against the harmful effects of UVA radiation. Research has indicated that regular supplementation of DHA can increase the sun protective effects of sunscreens, increasing the sunburn threshold and reducing the risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. I recommend a pure, potent form of omega 3 with a daily dose of 1500mg.
3. TAKE THE SUNSHINE VITAMIN
Vitamin D is considered a hormone as it is activated by your body and plays a role in mediating widespread effects across the body including controlling the cell growth cycle and immune response. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of many cancers including melanoma. A daily supplement of 800IU to 2000IU is recommended to maintain adequate levels.
4. WATCH OUT FOR NON-SOLAR SOURCES OF UVA
While the sun is the primary source of UVA exposure, increasingly there are other forms to by mindful of. Non-solar UVA exposure can be from tanning beds, fluorescent lighting, UV nail dryers, printers, and phototherapy lamps used for acne and mood disturbances.
5. MIND YOUR MOLES
Most melanoma develops from abnormal moles. Having many moles is considered an additional risk factor for melanoma, in addition to sun exposure, family history and having had other forms of skin cancer. An annual skin exam is recommended to ensure that any moles, especially large or changing moles, are properly assessed and tested as necessary to rule out cancer. A simple pneumonic can help you remember the red flags of a mole that should be assessed by a health care provider.
A- Asymmetry. Moles that have an asymmetric shape are higher risk.
B- Border. Moles with an irregular border are more likely to be abnormal that those that have a smooth, regular and well defined border.
C- Colour. Moles with varying colour (blue, black, dark brown and red) are more worrisome than moles that are light, brown and even in colour.
D- Diameter. Moles greater than 5mm are higher risk.
E- Evolution. Moles that are rapidly changing in any feature or dimension need to be carefully assessed.
The above skin tips and the ABCDE’s to managing your moles can help you stay safe as the weather warms and we spend more time outdoors. Happy Melanoma Monday!