Skin cancer on the rise in Manitoba
Skin cancer is on the rise in Manitoba.
Melanoma is 15 times more prevalent now than it was in the 1960s, according to CancerCare Manitoba.
Spokeswoman Liz Harland said there are many reasons for the upswing.
"The ozone layer is being depleted so the sun is getting stronger. There's also been an increase in the popularity of tanning," she said.
"There's also been an increased popularity in sunny and hot vacations."
The increased rates of the cancer means 200 Manitobans will be diagnosed this year. And yet the reality is, it's 50 to 90 per cent preventable.
'Wake up call'
The best advice us to always use sunscreen because even one sunburn can put you at increased risk of skin cancer — and then many other cancers, according to CancerCare.
"It's so important and it takes five minutes to put sunscreen on. It should be a priority," said Natalie Love, 37, who was never a sun worshipper yet is now living with metastatic melanoma.
"Skin cancer sounds like no big deal — you just cut if out and its fine. And when you really realize the damage that it does, it's a wake up call."
"I thought that would never happen to me. I think we all do."
When she was 25, a growth formed on her temple. She said it was sort of like a pimple, and over the course of a year it changed colour.
She had it cut off and that's when she found out it was skin cancer.
"That little mole I had, I had no idea it would result in this," she said.
5 brain tumours, 2 lung tumours
She was fine for years after that but then she became very sick with headaches. When she went to the doctor, more life changing news — she had a brain tumor.
"I never thought it could be the melanoma coming back, and when they said neurosurgery I thought, 'OK, that means brain surgery, why would they want to be doing that?' And then it all started falling into place," Love said.
"My whole body and mind went into shock."
She had brain surgery to remove the tumor in 2009.
Since that year, she has had:
- 5 brain tumours - 4 gamma knife surgeries to remove them.
- 2 lung tumours - two surgeries to remove them.
She is currently living with tumors that are inoperable. The melanoma has spread to her liver, a lymphnode and her adrenal gland.
She is currently on oral chemotherapy and says it's working well.
She cannot go in the sun without being fully protected, even for a minute, and she's had to leave her job. On the really bad days "I struggle more with feeling happy," she said.
"It's hard to feel happy when you're feeling sick."
Her doctor has not given her a timeline and "I don't think I would want him to either," Love said. "With melanoma, it's so different for everyone. I don't think I've met two people who have the same story."
Camera catches UV damage
CancerCare has purchased a special Polaroid camera that captures the UV damage under your skin that you can't see with the naked eye.
"It's very important people know what their skin looks like and can recognize changes in their skin, especially in their moles, if they change shape or start to bleed or start to evolve outside of their borders — in which case they should see their doctors," Harland said.
"[The camera] detects melanin up to three millimetres below the skin's surface and when the melanin darkens it tends to cluster and this captures that."
It does not show if you have skin cancer but is an indication of how much UV exposure you've had, as well as you're susceptibility to skin cancer, Harland added.