SAVANNAH, Georgia (WSAV) – The first Monday of every May is Melanoma Monday. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that begins in the melanocytes. It’s known as the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can quickly become life-threatening once it develops.

Read on to find more information about how you can reduce the risk of developing melanoma.

Avoid intentional sun exposure

According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, if you’re trying to prevent melanoma, you should never intentionally expose yourself to the sun. This doesn’t mean you can’t go out in the sunshine, but instead, you should avoid going out just for the purpose of getting in the sun. This includes going out just to tan.

A study published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2011 found that excess sun exposure could be attributed to 90% of cases of melanoma in men and 82% of cases of melanoma in women. So, avoiding sun exposure is definitely one of the best ways to help prevent melanoma.

Wear sunscreen

It’s difficult to be able to tell if sunscreen actually helps prevent melanoma. This is because melanoma shows up a long time after damaging sun exposure occurs. However, a long-term study from Australia found that individuals who regularly used sunscreen were less likely to develop melanoma after 10 years.

This research does not mean that it is certain that sunscreen prevents melanoma, but it does mean that there is evidence it does. Further research is needed to definitively say if sunscreen is an effective tool for preventing melanoma.  

While there is some debate on whether sunscreen actually prevents melanoma, the research is clear that for many, sunscreen and sunblock do help prevent another type of skin cancer called carcinoma.

Wear clothing that protects your skin

Just like wearing sunscreen and avoiding going out in the sun are important, when you are out and about, it is important for you to wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation has a helpful list that explains how certain clothing items help prevent your skin from being exposed to the sun. The list can be found through the link here.

The clothing items you’ll want to stick to are ones made of darker fabrics, denim or wool. You’ll also want to try to wear looser clothing items that cover as much as possible if you’re really prioritizing avoiding exposure to the sun.

Avoid tanning beds

According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Dermatology, more people develop skin cancer due to indoor tanning than people develop lung cancer due to smoking. Additionally, women who have tanned indoors are six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma while in their 20s compared to women who have never tanned indoors.

A 2007 review of seven studies found that first exposure to tanning beds before the age of 35 significantly increased the risk of developing melanoma. This means that if you were exposed to a tanning bed before you were 35 you are more likely to develop melanoma at some point in your life.

Keep to the shade

Even when you’re outside and not intentionally exposing your skin to the sun, you can further protect yourself by sticking to the shade whenever possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends finding shade, especially during midday hours, to help prevent exposure.