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Skin cancer is the most frequent type of cancer in Canada. Its most common form, carcinoma, starts in the cells of the epidermis and accounts for just over 80 percent of all cases of skin cancer. This article deals with another type of skin cancer: melanoma.
Melanomas form in the melanocytes, skin cells that produce melanin (pigments that account for skin colour). They account for less than 10 percent of all cases of skin cancer.
While relatively rare, melanomas have the highest likelihood of being deadly. In fact, they are responsible for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. There is no such thing as benign melanoma, since it can progress quickly and result in metastases – or secondary sites.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, approximately 7,000 people in Canada are diagnosed with melanoma annually. And, every year, close to 1,200 Canadians die from this form of cancer. With the number of cases increasing year after year, the time has come to sound the alarm.
Fortunately, when detected early, most cases of melanoma can be successfully treated. That’s why regular examination of the skin is important, even in children, since the tumours can develop at any age.
Melanomas are not usually painful. They can form on any part of the body, but normally develop on the back and legs.
Here are a few possible signs of melanoma:
In fact, you should look for lesions that present the following signs (ABCDE rule):
One of the main causes of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation, or UV rays. UV rays are invisible and are produced by the sun and tanning lamps. Most often, skin cancer is the result of overexposure to the sun.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society estimate that about 90 percent of skin cancers could be prevented with adequate protection from UV rays. How? Here are a few basic tips:
Certain medications can increase skin’s photosensitivity (i.e. make it more sensitive to the sun). Need to know which ones? Ask your family pharmacists. They can advise you on photosensitive drugs and give you useful sun protection tips.
[UNIPRIX] - The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.