Become a Skin Checker and help protect your friends and family from skin cancer

By Dr. Sonya Cook, MD, FRCPC (Dermatology) on May 02, 2016

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada? It is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. The main risk factor for all types of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Unfortunately, not enough Canadians are protecting themselves from the sun, and the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise. Early diagnosis is critical, as most skin cancers are curable when diagnosed and treated at an early stage. Here’s where you come in – make a commitment to sun safety this summer and check your skin once a month throughout the year for any concerning or changing lesions. Become a Skin Checker!

Last year, La Roche-Posay launched its Become a Skin Checker campaign, which aims to spread awareness of the importance of regular self skin examinations. The program is continuing in 2016.

You can learn how to evaluate your moles and those of your loved ones by becoming a Skin Checker and learning the ABCDEs of mole evaluation. Each letter corresponds to a feature of your moles that you should assess:

  • A is for asymmetry (does one half of the mole match the other?)
  • B is for border (the border should be smooth)
  • C is for colour (benign moles typically have one colour)
  • D is for diameter (moles greater than 6mm in diameter are higher risk)
  • E is for evolution (benign moles typically do not continue to change)

If you are concerned about any of your moles, you should seek referral to a dermatologist for further evaluation. As part of the Become a Skin Checker program, La Roche-Posay is offering 50 skin-checking clinics across the country from mid-June through the end of July. If you don’t have a regular dermatologist, you can sign up for an appointment starting May 15 by visiting: http://skinchecker.ca.

Make a commitment to sun protection this summer by:

  • Avoiding sun exposure between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Seeking shade and wearing sun protective clothing, hats and sunglasses (applying sunscreen does NOT make it okay to lie in the sun!)
  • Applying a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater to exposed skin. Be sure to apply an adequate amount (30g for the entire body, which is about equal to the size of a golf ball.) Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or swimming,
  • Make sunscreen application part of your morning routine, just like brushing your teeth. UV radiation is not significantly affected by cloud cover so you don’t need to check the weather forecast – just put it on every day.

There are special considerations for sun protection in infants and children:

  • Young children have thinner skin and less protective pigment in their skin and therefore sun protection is especially important.
  • For infants younger than six months, sun avoidance is most appropriate (avoiding peak hours and seeking shade) – although there is no evidence to suggest that sunscreens are harmful in this age group.
  • Studies have shown that parents who regularly apply sunscreen to their children at an early age typically find that their children are more likely to continue this practice in adolescence – so get them started early!
  • Studies show that excessive childhood UV exposure is one of the primary risk factors in the development of melanoma and other skin cancers in adults.

Dr. Sonya Cook is the Cofounder of Compass Dermatology in Toronto.


By Dr. Sonya Cook, MD, FRCPC (Dermatology)| May 02, 2016

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