Melanoma skin cancer is preventable. Limiting exposure to UV radiation may reduce your risk. Regular skin self-exams are also helpful in identifying melanoma at earlier stages.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the major risk factor for melanoma and other skin cancers.

Sunlight is a significant source of UV radiation. Using tanning beds and sun lamps also exposes your skin to UV rays.

Researchers found that 91% of melanoma diagnoses made between 2011 and 2015 could have a direct link to UV radiation exposure.

These prevention tips may help reduce the chance of developing melanoma or receiving a diagnosis at later stages.

Using sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen the right way on skin that isn’t covered by clothing is essential for melanoma prevention.

Additional tips for using sunscreen optimally include:

  • choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
  • applying sunscreen about 20–30 minutes before going outdoors
  • reapplying sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating
  • using sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days

Consider sun-protective clothing

Wearing certain types of clothing can help protect your skin from the sun.

Examples include lightweight pants or long-sleeved shirts, hats with a wide brim, and sunglasses. Dark colors are generally more protective than lighter colors.

Some clothing brands also have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) for additional sun protection. Just like the SPF of sunscreen, higher UPF numbers offer more protection.

Staying in the shade

According to the American Cancer Society, the rays from the sun are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Trying to seek shade during this time is highly advised.

If you’re outside, it’s also a good idea to be mindful of sand, snow, and water. These can reflect UV rays at you, even if you’re sitting in the shade, wearing sunscreen, and using protective clothing.

Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps

Tanning beds and sun lamps are also sources of UV radiation. If you’d like to look tanned, you may want to try a self-tanning product while staying away from sun lamps and beds.

The ABCDE rule

Melanoma may start in an existing or new mole. These may typically look different than other moles on your body. The ABCDE rule may help you identify potentially cancerous moles in the early stages. Early diagnosis may help you prevent complications and improve melanoma outlook.

  • Asymmetry (A): One half of a mole looks different from the other half.
  • Border (B): The mole has an irregular or jagged border.
  • Color (C): The mole has an inconsistent color or areas of white, blue, or red/pink discoloration.
  • Diameter (D): Many (not all) skin melanomas are larger than 6 millimeters, the width of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving (E): The mole changes noticeably over time.
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Research into the effect of diet on melanoma is still limited and inconclusive. Still, some nutritional factors or dietary patterns may have an association with a lower or higher chance of melanoma and other skin cancers.

A 2019 study suggests that the Mediterranean diet has an association with a lower chance of melanoma in women. The diet involves foods that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Another 2019 study indicates that eating legumes, eggs, olive oil, and onion or garlic has an association with lower melanoma risk. Meanwhile, eating commercial cereals and sweets had an association with a higher risk.

Studies from 2021 and 2022 note that higher whole citrus intake in specific populations and higher total fish intake increased melanoma risk. But more research is necessary to confirm causality.

Generally, a nutrient-dense diet based on unprocessed foods has an association with positive overall health outcomes.

Cancer development depends on many internal and external factors. No blanket formula exists for completely preventing melanoma cancer.

Some of the risk factors for melanoma aren’t modifiable. This means that you cannot manage them through lifestyle and other choices alone.

Some examples of unmodifiable risk factors for melanoma include:

  • the aging process
  • family history of melanoma or other types of skin cancer
  • lighter skin, eyes, or hair tones
  • tendency to develop moles or certain types of moles
  • weakened immune system

Diagnoses of melanoma skin cancer often show a link to UV radiation. Limiting your exposure may go a long way in reducing your chances of melanoma.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force hasn’t recommended for or against regular skin cancer screenings as a way to reduce the chance of melanoma and other skin cancers.

Still, regular skin self-exams may help you identify any concerning areas in your body. It’s estimated that individuals or their loved ones find 50–80% of melanoma skin cancers during skin exams.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends doing a skin self-exam once a month. They also recommend seeing a dermatologist once each year for a full-body scan.

You may be able to decrease your chance of developing melanoma skin cancer by limiting UV radiation exposure.

Seeking shade, using sunscreen and sun-protective clothing, and avoiding tanning beds and sun lamps are all preventive methods.

Performing monthly self-exams can also help you find melanomas early.