Save your skin

Rob Gibson

May is melanoma month and with the hot temperatures and sunshine, it's a reminder to be sun safe and save your skin.

Dr. Ben Wiese cares so much about the health of your skin, the largest human organ, that he started a specialized clinic dedicated to skin health and sun safety.

"What is shocking about melanoma is that one person dies from skin cancer every hour in North America."

The good news is, melanoma is 90 per cent preventable. The bad news, if you have had tanning bed exposure before the age of 30, your risk of contracting melanoma goes up by 75 per cent. The other danger is natural sunlight and UV exposure.

"If you're fair skinned, blue-eyed, have freckles, red-headed, blonde or have a family history of skin cancer, those types of patients need to screened. That's when I realized that I need to step up and start screening these patients on a primary care level and then refer accordingly."

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, over 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year, more than 7,200 of which are melanomas. It is estimated that 1,200 Canadians lost their lives to melanoma in 2017.

"It's important to do a skin check every month. Most patients actually find these abnormal skin lesions themselves. If you see you have a changing skin lesion that's when you need to see someone."

It may sound scary but prevention is fairly basic, stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., or if you're going to go outside, wear sunscreen, sunglasses and cover-up.

You may have heard that dark-skinned people have protection against skin cancer, but this isn't the case says Dr. Wiese.

"Bob Marley died from skin cancer at the age of 36, he had melanoma on his toenail. Melanoma doesn't discriminate, any age, any gender, anybody can get melanoma."

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