World Melanoma Day is recognized on the second Monday of May around the world to highlight the growing prevalence of malignant melanoma. This year the Canadian Dermatology Association has released new public opinion research revealing positive and worrisome trends in Canadians’ attitudes towards sun exposure and sun protection.

In previous years the CDA has lobbied on Parliament Hill for MPs with other organizations for a ban on tanning bed usage by minors. Currently, every province in Canada (and two out of three territories) prohibits the use of tanning equipment by people under the age of 18 or 19. With this shared success for the safety of Canadians, the CDA continues to advocate for sun safety and skin cancer prevention.

Ban on Tanning Bed Usage by Minors Across Canada

Check Early, Check Often

While people may be unsure how best to check their skin, performing a self-examination using the steps below and the “ABCDEs” is a simple way to remember the key characteristics that could identify a potential case of melanoma:

5 Step Skin Cancer Self-Examination
Self-exam step 1 image

Using a mirror in a well-lit room, check the front of your body – face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, thighs and lower legs.

Self-exam step 2 image

Turn sideways, raise your arms and look carefully at the right and left sides of your body, including the underarm area.

Self-exam step 3 image

With a hand-held mirror, check your upper back, neck and scalp. Next, examine your lower back, buttocks, backs of thighs and calves.

Self-exam step 4 image

Examine your forearms, palms, back of the hands, fingernails and in between each finger.

Self-exam step 5 image

Finally, check your feet – the tops, soles, toenails, toes and spaces in between.

Look for the ABCDE’s
ABCDE of Melanoma

A- “Asymmetry” – the shape on one side is different from that on the other side

B- “Border” – the border or visible edge is irregular, ragged and imprecise

C- “Colour” – mole colour varies with brown, black, red, grey or white areas within the lesion

D- “Diameter” – growth is typical of melanoma. It can measure more than 6 mm, although it can be less

E- “Evolution” – look for change in colour, size, shape or symptom, such as itching, tenderness or bleeding

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, and more than 90% of melanomas are caused by UV light from the sun. Certified dermatologist Dr. Harvey Lui talks about how to prevent melanoma, and how early detection can help save patients’ lives.

Learn more about Melanoma

Minimize Your Melanoma Risk

Remember to practice the following sun-safe behaviours:

Seek shade between 11:00am to 3:00pm

Wearing protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and UV-protective sunglasses

Wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30

A Growing Problem

While the incidence rates of some types of cancer are decreasing every year (e.g. laryngeal for both sexes, lung cancer in males, and cervical cancer in females), melanoma is among the types that continue to increase annually.

IN MALES, the incidence rate for melanoma has increased steadily at 2.2% per year since 1984 – the 3rd-largest overall increase in incidences for males, after thyroid cancer (6.4%) and multiple myeloma (2.6%).

IN FEMALES, the incidence rate for melanoma was stable from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s; since 1994, the rate has increased by 2.0% per year – the 2nd-largest overall increase in incidences for females, after liver cancer (2.7%).

Mortality rates have increased for melanoma, particularly for males (1.2% per year since 1984). In females, the increase in mortality rates was 0.4%.

Survival rates for melanoma are high compared to most other forms of cancer – second only to rates. Males, 84% 5-year survival rate and 83% 10-year survival rate. Females, 91% 5-year survival rate and 91% 10-year survival rate.

Early detection is key, and everyone should regularly perform a skin evaluation; consider asking your partner to check areas that can be hard to see on your own (back, neck, etc). You should see a certified dermatologist if you spot something suspicious.

Melanoma Fact Sheet