Practicing effective melanoma prevention

Effective prevention of melanoma is two-fold: First, reduce and limit UV (ultraviolet) exposure both from natural sunlight and artificial (e.g., tanning beds) sources; Second, identify and diagnose melanoma as early as possible.

Take note: although research suggests that the majority of melanomas - nearly 90% - are considered to be preventable, research also indicates that neither mucosal melanoma nor ocular melanoma are linked to UV exposure or considered preventable.

Primary prevention – the first line of defense

Primary prevention focuses on reducing and limiting exposure to UV radiation. This includes UV from sunlight and artificial sources, such as tanning beds. Following and combining the guidelines below will greatly reduce your risk of developing melanoma.

Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin — even on cloudy days — year-round

Follow these tips:

  • Use a sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
  • Use approximately one ounce of sunscreen (a shot-glassful) and apply it approximately 15 minutes before sun exposure - then reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating
  • Sunscreen is just one component of sun safety. Remember, just because you’re wearing sunscreen, doesn’t mean you can spend unlimited time in the sun. 
  • Download the MRF’s handy guide: Sunscreen: What do I need to know?

Wear protective clothing

Wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.

Seek shade when possible

Remember that the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Use extra caution near reflective environments

Water, snow and sand reflect and magnify the damaging rays of the sun, increasing your chance of sunburn.

Do not burn

Severe sunburns, especially during childhood, increase your risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancer. Just one blistering sunburn can double your chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Avoid intentional tanning and indoor tanning beds

Current research indicates there is no way to get a tan through ultraviolet exposure without increasing the risk for skin cancer. Not convinced? Read the MRF’s statement on why tanning is dangerous.

Get plenty of vitamin D

Replace vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that includes vitamin supplements if recommended by your doctor – don’t seek the sun.

Be aware of your medications

Certain prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can increase your skin's sensitivity to sunlight.

Secondary prevention – skin checks can save your life

Secondary prevention focuses on the early detection of melanoma. This includes both monthly self skin examinations and yearly skin examinations by a dermatologist.

Research has shown that patients, not doctors, are most likely to spot a melanoma, reinforcing the importance of thoroughly checking your skin each month. Early detection could save your life. Use our Guide for Self-Screening during your monthly skin exams. Not sure what to look for? You can start by learning more about the ABCDEs of melanoma

Would you like to help spread the word on monthly self-skin exams? Request the "Who is the most likely to SPOT your melanoma?" booklet from the MRF and help by spreading the word in your community!