Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.
Melanoma is treatable if diagnosed early. If detected in an advanced stage, melanoma can be fatal.
The main risk factors for melanoma include:
- Overexposure to UV rays from the sun or indoor tanning equipment.
- A history of severe sunburns
- Fair skin, blue or green eyes, red or blonde hair and skin that burns easily
- Many moles (over 50), large moles and atypical moles
- A family or personal history of melanoma
- People with none of these risk factors can also get melanoma.
Skin cancer is the number one cancer in Canada, accounting for nearly the same number of new cancer cases as lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer cases combined.
In 2014, it was estimated that there were 6,500 new cases of melanoma and 76,100 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in Canada. It was also estimated that there were 1,050 deaths due to melanoma and 440 deaths due to non- melanoma skin cancer.
Skin cancer is also the most common cancer in the United States, where five million people are treated annually. Every year, there are more than 63,000 new cases of melanoma and 9,000 deaths.
While the incidence and death rates for most cancers is decreasing, they are increasing for melanoma.
The best way to reduce your risk of melanoma is to protect and check your skin.
Since 90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to the sun/UV light, it’s important to protect your skin in the sun and avoid indoor tanning.
As melanoma is difficult to treat when diagnosed in an advanced stage, it’s important to detect melanoma early. Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor.