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Your Skin Needs Extra Care

Being a melanoma survivor makes you more likely to develop a second, unrelated melanoma. So it’s extra important to take care of your skin from head to toe. Here are some tips for staying safe and feeling good after treatment.

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Wear Sunscreen Year-Round

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun’s rays is a major risk factor for melanoma. But using a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day can reduce that risk. Choose one with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Put it on all areas of exposed skin every day, year-round. If you’re outdoors, slather it anywhere that isn’t covered. Reapply every 2 hours, or more often if you’re sweaty or in the water.

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Check Yourself Monthly

Inspect your skin once a month for new moles or changes that may be signs of new cancer. Do it after a bath or shower, and use mirrors so you can see all over your body. Have someone check hard-to-see spots, like your scalp and behind your ears, too. If you find something, tell your doctor right away.

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Seek Shade When the Sun Is High

You don’t have to stay inside forever, but it’s a good idea to avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest. If you are outdoors during this time, take an umbrella and don’t lie in direct sunlight. Wear sunscreen, too. UV rays can go through fabrics or reflect off nearby surfaces, even if you’re in the shade.

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Wear a Hat

Your head, especially your nose and ears, is a popular spot for melanoma. So when you’re in the sun, wear a hat. Choose one with a wide brim -- at least 3 inches on all sides -- to give your neck and ears some shade. A hat won’t totally protect you. But paired with other smart strategies, it can be a big help.

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Shield Your Skin

You can wear long sleeves and a long skirt or pants when you go out in the sun. But remember that UV rays can travel through some fabrics, especially loose ones. Choose clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 50 or more. Many of these are designed to be worn in the heat or the water, so they may be more breathable and lightweight.

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Show Your Scar Some TLC

Melanomas caught early have a small chance of coming back in the same spot. But it’s important keep a close eye on your scar, and let your doctor know if you spot any changes in color or shape. Tell them if it’s itchy or painful, too. They may recommend a steroid shot or cream. Use sunscreen on your scar and keep it covered in the sun. It’s more sensitive than your normal skin.

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Be Careful in the Car

Even when you’re in the car with the windows up, UV rays can travel through glass and damage your skin. You’re more likely to get melanoma on your left side, where the sun hits when you drive. Put sunscreen on your face and other exposed parts, like your arms and hands, while you drive. Or opt to ride shotgun. You can also get clear UV-protective film for your windows.

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Never Fake Bake

Just one session in a tanning bed or booth can make you 20% more likely to get melanoma. It’s even more risky if you’ve already had the disease.

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Get to Know Your Skin Doc

All adults need to see the dermatologist once a year for a skin check. But that isn’t enough if you’ve already had melanoma. For 2 years after diagnosis -- when your cancer is most likely to return -- you should go every 3 months. After that, you’ll likely need to visit every 6 months.

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Stock Up on Moisturizers

During and soon after your treatment, your skin may get dry and itchy. To give it the care it needs, slather on a cream or ointment twice a day. Use fragrance-free soaps and detergents. Scented products can irritate your skin. Keep your showers short and lukewarm. That’ll help stop you from drying out.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 08/04/2020 Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on August 04, 2020


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National Cancer Institute: “A Snapshot of Melanoma,” “How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer,” “Melanoma Risk Assessment Tool.”

American Cancer Society: “Risk factors for melanoma skin cancer,” “How Do I Protect Myself From UV Rays?”

Hooman Khorasani, MD; chief, dermatologic and cosmetic surgery, Mount Sinai Hospital; assistant professor of dermatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center: “Protection from the Sun After Skin Cancer.”

Skin Cancer Foundation: “Melanoma Survivors’ Surprising Habits,” “Regular Use of Sunscreen Can Reduce Melanoma Risk,” “Step by Step Self-Examination,” “If You Can See Sunlight, Seek the Shade,” “What Is Sun-Safe Clothing?” “Sun Hazards in Your Car.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Caring for Your Skin during and after Cancer Treatment.”

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on August 04, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.