Melanoma is preventable in the majority of cases. Most melanomas are caused by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun (or solariums).
UV, UVA and UVB
UV is comprised of UVA and UVB. Using sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection is recommended.
- UVA penetrates deeper into the skin and is the primary cause of wrinkles, sunspots and damaged appearance of the skin.
- UVB penetrates the top layers of the skin, primarily causing sunburn and cancer.
The most effective way to prevent melanoma is to adopt sunsmart behaviours early in life. These behaviours should continue throughout life to minimise the risk of developing melanoma.
Preventative measures include:
- Avoid the sun or use protective measures when the UV index is higher than 2
- Use a SPF30+ broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) on all areas of exposed skin
- Wear sun-protective-clothing
- Wear a broad-brimmed-hat
- Wear sunglasses
- Perform self skin examinations. Link to self exam
- Avoid solariums
When using sunscreen it is important to follow these guidelines:
- Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors
- Apply generously and cover all areas including behind the ears and knees
- Use a water resistant sunscreen when swimming
- Reapply sunscreen according to the product label instructions
- Ensure the sunscreen complies with the current Australian and New Zealand Standard for Sunscreens (AS/NZS2604:1998)
Vitamin D is important for overall health and strong and healthy bones. Your body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight and it can also be obtained from supplements and some foods.
A small amount of sunlight is needed each week to activate our vitamin D. The amount of sun exposure required will vary by the time of year, skin type, age, body mass index and a number of other factors. The Australian recommendations are that when the ultraviolet (UV) index is less than 3, you do not need to protect yourself from the sun.
If you have marker for a vitamin D deficiency such as high levels of parathyroid hormone or soft bones your doctor may recommend a blood test to check your levels. Some people are deficient in vitamin D and may be advised to take supplements if levels are low.
Australian recommendations if you are under 70 years old and receive no sun exposure are that you should take 400 IU of supplementary vitamin D each day. If you are over 70 years old and receive no sun exposure, you should take 600 IU daily.