Summer is a season of joy, beaches, and sunlight. It is also a time to give the skin some extra thought. This year, over 76,000 new cases of melanoma will be discovered in the USA, and many of these could have been prevented.

There is a close connection between melanoma and ultraviolet light from the sun and from tanning beds. Our society’s view of a “healthy tan” has lead to a steady increase in melanoma cases for the past thirty years.

Up until now, we have known little about the mechanisms behind UV light causing cancer. A recent study made by the University of Manchester’s Cancer Research UK shows that UV light damages the DNA of pigment cells in the skin. UV light directly targets the genes supposed to protect us from it.

Many put their faith in sunscreen, and wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher offers a certain protection, but it is not enough to protect against melanoma.

There are some good habits to get into in order to avoid melanoma:

  • Apply generous amounts of sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
  • Take care not to burn – sunburn is a sign of the DNA in the skin cells being damaged
  • Seek shade when the sun is at its strongest
  • Wear sun-protective clothing

The risk is biggest for young people. Five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 can increase the risk of melanoma by up to 80 percent.