You can’t affect the genetically determined risk factors for melanoma, such as having a fair complexion, numerous moles or a family history of melanoma. However, the risk of developing melanoma can be significantly reduced by following these basic rules.
Exposure to the sun
Sudden, intensive and direct exposure to the sun should definitely be avoided. The main objective is to prevent sunburns, i.e. skin redness after sun exposure. The most harmful sunburns are those that produce blisters or pain for at least 48 hours. Therefore, it is wise to avoid prolonged direct exposure to sunlight, especially between 11am and 3pm.
Sunscreen should have the highest sun protection factor – and provide equal protection from UVA and UVB rays (only the higher factor sunscreens protect against UVA). The sunscreen takes effect around half an hour after its application and lasts only two to three hours. So, apply sunscreen half an hour before going out into the sun and reapply every two hours.
Being in the shade when outside can still lead to sunburn from reflected UV rays unless additional sun protection measures are used. Similarly, the sun’s rays do penetrate clouds so your skin can still become sunburnt even on overcast days. Remember that UV rays do not make your skin feel hot, so breezes may give you a false sense of safe sun exposure.
Clothing provides the best protection from intensive sunlight. T-shirts are better than sleeveless clothes. Darker coloured clothing provides better protection than light coloured clothing. The material should preferably be tightly woven and with certified UV protection. It is good to wear a wide-brimmed hat and Polaroid sunglasses (since UV rays are also harmful to the eyes). Today, clothing for children, including swimwear, with inbuilt sun protection (up to factor 50) is available.
Cosmetics and medicines
Certain medicines increase sensitivity to light. This is something that should be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist before exposing oneself to the sun. Deodorants, cosmetics and perfumes can cause an unpleasant reaction to the sun or permanent pigmentation. Application of such products should therefore be avoided before sunbathing.