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'Enjoy the weather but you've got to protect yourself': doctor

A dermatologist urges Torontonians to think twice before soaking up the sun, amid soaring temperatures and an impending heat wave this week.

“You got to enjoy the weather but you’ve got to protect yourself,” Dr. Paul Cohen, dermatologist at the Rosedale Dermatology Centre said.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, he said.

“Melanoma, if it’s caught early is a very curable disease. But if it’s not detected, it can spread to other parts of your body.”

Dr. Cohen urges people to check their skin frequently for abnormalities, adding that the back is the most common area for melanoma for men and women and calves for women.

Self-screening is critical to detect skin cancer early. About 70 per cent of melanoma is detected by the patient or his or her partner, he said.

Dr. Cohen said to check for “the ABCDEs of melanoma” when examining your skin:

•   Moles that are asymmetrical in shape
•   Moles that have an irregular or scalloped border
•   Moles that are dark in colour or have multiple colours
•   Moles that have a diameter larger than an eraser on the end of a pencil
•   Moles that are evolving in size, colour or shape

Safety under the sun is crucial for children under the age of 18, he said.

“Childhood sunburns are extremely important and as an adult, I see a lot of the ramifications of childhood sun abuse,” he said. “If you’ve had one sunburn before the age of 18 that doubles your risk of getting melanoma.”

Children should use a high SPF sunscreen, wear sun-protective clothing, seek shade whenever possible and avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when it is at its peak, he said.

He adds that people only need about five minutes of sun exposure on the back of their hands and on their face to get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D.