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Melanoma: Self-care after treatment


Find skin cancer early

The right self-care, which includes skin self-exams, after treatment for melanoma can help you stay healthy.

If you’ve been treated for melanoma, you may never get another one. Many people don’t, but it’s important to know that you have a higher risk of getting another melanoma. It’s also possible for melanoma to return.

Having had melanoma, your risk of getting another type of skin cancer also rises.

Anyone who has had melanoma lives with these risks. Fortunately, with a bit of self-care, you can:

  • Reduce your risk of getting another skin cancer, including melanoma

  • Find skin cancer, including melanoma, early when it’s most treatable

To help you reduce your risk and find skin cancer early, here’s what board-certified dermatologists tell their patients who are melanoma survivors.

  1. Protect your skin from the sun. While many people feel that the damage has already been done once they develop skin cancer, protecting your skin from the sun has benefits. Sun protection can prevent further damage to your skin and may allow your body to repair some of the existing damage.

    Avoiding the sun after treatment for melanoma will also help your skin to heal and reduce scarring.

    For these reasons, dermatologists recommend that you protect your skin from the sun every day, even in winter. To reduce your risk of getting another skin cancer, you want to:

    • Avoid the sun whenever possible. When you’re outdoors during the day, seek shade and try to avoid being outdoors when the sun is strongest, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
    • Protect your skin by wearing sunscreen every single day. Even when it’s cloudy, raining, or snowing, wear sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, SPF 30 or higher, and water resistance. You should apply this every day, even if you’re only spending a few minutes outdoors.
    • Wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun. Before going outdoors during the day, you want to put on a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Whenever possible, wear long sleeves, pants, shoes, and socks.

  2. Never use a tanning bed or other indoor tanning equipment. Indoor tanning is not safer than the sun. The UV rays from this equipment are often stronger than the sun’s UV rays.

    Whether the UV rays come from the sun or indoor tanning, science has proven that they can cause cancer. This evidence is so strong that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires warning labels on all indoor tanning equipment.

  3. Keep all your dermatology appointments. Your dermatologist will tell you how often you will need to come in. During these appointments, your dermatologist will check you for signs of skin cancer.

    These exams can be lifesaving. Found early, skin cancer is highly treatable.

  4. Learn how to examine your own skin for signs of skin cancer, and examine your skin as often as your dermatologist recommends. The purpose of the skin self-exam is to find skin cancer early when it’s most treatable.

    Because these exams can be lifesaving, the AAD offers information to help you do this on your own.

    Skin self-exam: How to do

    You can catch skin cancer early by following board-certified dermatologists' tips for checking your skin.

    During your skin self-exam, you want to examine all your skin, even places that rarely get sun. Make an appointment to see your dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that:

    • Differs from the others
    • Changes
    • Itches
    • Bleeds
    When you make an appointment to see your dermatologist, be sure to mention that you’ve been treated for melanoma.

You’ll find more information about why skin exams and sun protection are essential for melanoma survivors at, Your best defense against another melanoma.


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American Academy of Dermatology

References
Barnhill RL, Mihm MC, et al. “Malignant melanoma.” In: Nouri K, et al. Skin Cancer. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2008: 140-167.

Mayer D, Layman A, et al. “Research letter: Sun-protection behaviors of melanoma survivors.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2012;66:e9-e10.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. “NCCN guidelines for patients: Melanoma.” 2018. Last accessed February 12, 2019.

von Schuckmann LA, Wilson LF, et al. “Sun protection behavior after diagnosis of high-risk primary melanoma and risk of a subsequent primary.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2019;80:139-48.

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