Reducing your risk for melanoma skin cancer

You may lower your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer by doing the following.

Be sun safe

The best way to lower your risk of developing skin cancer is to protect yourself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Check the daily UV Index. Listen to the weather forecast to find out how strong the sun will be each day. Try to lower the amount of time you spend in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more. In Canada the UV Index can be 3 or more from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between April and September, even when it’s cloudy.

Seek shade or create your own shade. Cover up as much of your skin as you can with tightly woven clothes or clothes that are labelled UV-protective. Wear a hat with a wide brim that covers your head, face, ears and neck. Wear close-fitting sunglasses in a wraparound style that have UVA and UVB protection. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

Take extra care when enjoying outdoor summer and winter sports such as swimming, skiing and snowboarding. UV rays from the sun can be reflected by water, sand, pavement, snow and ice.

Protecting children from the sun may greatly reduce their lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. Protect babies from direct sunlight by keeping them in a covered stroller, under an umbrella or in the shade. Try to set a good example. If you practise sensible sun habits, your children will too.

Learn more about being sun safe.

Don’t use indoor tanning equipment

Indoor tanning equipment, such as tanning beds or sun lamps, gives off UV radiation that is up to 5 times stronger than the midday sun on a summer day. The Canadian Cancer Society believes that people under the age of 18 should not be allowed by law to use indoor tanning equipment.

Find out more about indoor tanning.

Find out if you’re at high risk for melanoma skin cancer

Some people can have a higher than average risk for melanoma skin cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk. If you are at higher than average risk, you may need to visit your doctor more often for a skin exam to check for skin cancer. Your doctor will recommend how often you should have a skin exam.

Find out more about skin exams.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Melanoma Skin Cancer. 2015:
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology . Melanoma . 2015 :
  • Canadian Dermatology Association . Malignant Melanoma .
  • Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation . Skin Cancer Prevention: Early Detection .
  • Cancer Research UK. Preventing melanoma. Reviewed ed. Birmingham, UK: Cancer Research UK; 2014.
  • Cancer Research UK. Cancer Insight for GPs: What You Need To Know About Skin Cancer. Cancer Research UK; 2017:
  • Johnson MM, Leachman SA, Aspinwall LG, et al . Skin cancer screening: recommendations for data-driven screening guidelines and a review of the US Preventive Services Task Force controversy . Melanoma Management . 2017 .
  • National Cancer Institute. Skin Cancer Prevention (PDQ®) Patient Version. 2017:
  • Ribas A, Slingluff Cl Jr, Rosenberg SA . Cutaneous melanoma. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 94:1346-1394.
  • Wernli KJ, Henrikson NB, Morrison CC, Nguyen M, Pocobelli G, Blasi PR . Screening for skin cancer in adults updated evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force . JAMA . 2016 .
  • World Health Organization (WHO). The World Health Organization Recommends That No Person Under 18 Should Use a Sunbed. 2005.