Sudbury councillor shares skin cancer story

The Canadian Dermatology Association has an important reminder for Canadians about how to protect themselves and their families from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation exposure that can cause skin cancer through Sun Awareness Month throughout May.

Sudbury City Councillor Mike Jakubo is no stranger to skin cancer.

He told CTV News he first noticed a spot on his left cheek in the fall of 2017.

"Just my wife and I watching a spot on my cheek here that was not going away, was progressing and changing. As soon as we found out that it was melanoma, things really happened fast," Jakubo said.

"I was in surgery in under a week and had it removed right away because with melanoma there is no treatment other than to successfully remove."

May 8 is 'Check Your Skin Day' and local dermatologist Lyne Giroux told CTV News there are a few things to look out for.

"Most melanomas are flat, and so if they are flat, brown, you can’t peel chunks off of them and they're changing," Giroux said.

"The most important thing is that they’re changing. And then the other type to worry about is what we call amelanotic melanoma. So they’re pinkish and they can grow rapidly. Usually, these ones are nodules."

Giroux has been offering a free skin screening clinic in the community and said it has been very successful.

"Every year, I’d say at least three or four melanomas. We find a lot of squamous cell carcinoma, probably 10-ish and maybe 20 basal cells. A lot of pre-cancerous lesions, like actinic keratosis, and of course, a lot of benign things that can look like cancer. People are always glad to be reassured about that."

She hopes to have the clinic again next year after having to put the initiative on pause during the pandemic. In the meantime, she said there are things people can do for prevention.

"Sunscreen is an important part, but it's not the whole story, so it's better to cover up as much as you can. And they make great sun-protective clothing now, which filters out the UVA because UVA light can go through clouds, go through windows and UVA is a longer wavelength of light. So it’s the one that’s more dangerous for skin cancers, whereas UVB is the wavelength that burns but it's usually filtered out by clothing and windows."

Giroux adds it's important to reapply sunscreen every two hours as the UVA protection decreases significantly after that point giving a false sense of protection.

"Because you're not burning, but you’re starting to get the UVA, which goes deeper into the skin and causes the mutations in the DNA. And the most critical time for this is before the age of 18," she said.

To learn more about how to check your skin click here.