Although you may be aware that with a previous melanoma diagnosis, you are at increased risk of a second diagnosis, you may still find it difficult to proactively minimize your risk. Research has shown that melanoma survivors often engage in risky behaviors despite their previous diagnosis.
Here are some things you may have heard about sun exposure and/or protection.
Learn more about how you can reframe each statement.
"I WANT TO BE/LOOK TAN BECAUSE IT IS MORE ATTRACTIVE"
The sun causes more than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging.
ACTION: Think about the feelings you associate with being tan. Are there other ways to generate those feelings without tanning? You may also consider a self-tanning or bronzing lotion to make your skin look tan.
"I FEEL LEFT OUT IF I'M NOT IN THE SUN WITH MY FRIENDS/FAMILY."
People diagnosed with melanoma are approximately 9 times as likely to develop another melanoma as those who have not had a melanoma diagnosis. However, if you reduce your ultraviolent (UV) exposure, you can reduce your risk of developing a new melanoma.
ACTION: Find an opportunity to educate your friends on melanoma and the importance of sun avoidance and protection -- for everyone, but especially for you.
"I WORRY ABOUT MAINTAINING HEALTHY VITAMIN D LEVELS."
The safest way to obtain vitamin D is through diet and supplements.
ACTION: Check your Vitamin D levels on an annual basis and use supplements as directed by your health care provider.
"I DO NOT LIKE THE FEEL OF SUNSCREEN. AND IT IS EXPENSIVE ANYWAY."
The most effective sun protection methods are seeking shade and covering up.
ACTION: Try a few different sunscreen products to see if you can find one that has an acceptable texture and/or fragrance. You could consider covering up with a hat or clothing instead.
"I DON'T THINK THE SUN IS WHAT CAUSED MY MELANOMA."
Most melanomas, approximately 86%, are caused by UV from the sun.
ACTION: Speak with your dermatologist about ways you can reduce your risk of developing another melanoma.
"I AM TOO OLD FOR IT TO MATTER; I'M PAYING FOR THINGS I DID AS A KID."
Only about 23 percent of lifetime exposure occurs by age 18. Regardless of your age, healthy sun behaviors will reduce your future risks.
ACTION: Set an example for younger people in your life by avoiding and protecting yourself from the sun.
"I FORGET ABOUT IT AS MY DIAGNOSIS GETS FURTHER IN THE PAST."
The risks for a new melanoma after an initial diagnosis can continue for up to 20 years.
ACTION: Make sun protection routine. For example, use a daily face or body lotion with SPF protection.
"I JUST WANT TO ENJOY MYSELF OUTSIDE AND NOT THINK ABOUT MELANOMA ALL THE TIME."
There are many ways you can be outside that minimize your UV exposure.
ACTION: Think of behaviors and activities that minimize your UV exposure while enabling you to enjoy yourself outdoors, such as taking a sun shade to the park. Once these behaviors become routine, you won’t have to think about them.
"I GO OUTSIDE TO EXERCISE IN THE SUMMER, AND EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT FOR MY HEALTH."
Exercise is an important component of emotional and physical health. Steps can be taken to minimize UV exposure while still remaining active.
ACTION: Wear a hat and protective clothing. Exercise in the early morning or evening to avoid peak sun exposure.
- Bradford, P.T., et al., Increased risk of second primary cancers after a diagnosis of melanoma. Arch Dermatol, 2010. 146(3): p. 265-72.
- Branstrom, R., et al., Predictors of sun protection behaviors and severe sunburn in an international online study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2010. 19(9): p. 2199-210.
- Gilchrest, B.A., Skin and aging process. 1984: CRC Press.
- Godar, D.E., et al., UV doses of young adults. Photochem Photobiol, 2003. 77(4): p. 453-7.
- Kricker, A., et al., Ambient UV, personal sun exposure and risk of multiple primary melanomas. Cancer Causes Control, 2007. 18(3): p. 295-304.
- Parkin, D.M., D. Mesher, and P. Sasieni, 13. Cancers attributable to solar (ultraviolet) radiation exposure in the UK in 2010. Br J Cancer, 2011. 105 Suppl 2: p. S66-9.
- Vogel, R.I., et al., A Qualitative Study of Quality of Life Concerns following a Melanoma Diagnosis. J Skin Cancer, 2017. 2017: p. 2041872.
- Vogel, R.I., et al., Sun Exposure and Protection Behaviors among Long-term Melanoma Survivors and Population Controls. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2017.