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Skin care after melanoma

A diagnosis of melanoma means you are at a higher than average risk of having another melanoma in the future. So it’s important to keep an eye on our skin and protect it when out in the sun. 

Checking your skin

Be aware of what your skin normally looks like. Go to see your doctor if you notice any skin changes or possible symptoms of melanoma. Also see your doctor if there are any changes in the site where you had your original melanoma.

Remember the earlier the stage of melanoma is, the easier it is to treat. So keep an eye on things, but don’t worry too much.

What you can do to protect your skin

There are many things you can do to protect your skin:

  • wear close weave cotton clothing in the sun
  • wear long sleeves and trousers
  • wear a hat with a wide brim that shades your face and neck
  • wear sun glasses to protect your eyes
  • use a high factor sun cream when you are in the sun
  • stay out of the sun altogether between 11am and 3pm in the UK
  • never use a sun bed

You can still enjoy the outdoors on sunny days. It’s just a case of taking care and enjoying the sun safely.

Suncreen

If you've had melanoma, you should avoid spending too long in the sun. Use a product with at least an SPF of 15 and apply generously. Your skin cancer specialist might suggest a high factor sunscreen such as 50 on any exposed skin. The higher SPF gives you extra protection but no sunscreen can provide 100% protection.

For continued protection you need to re apply sunscreen regularly while in the sun. Using suncreen does not mean you can safely sunbathe.

Choosing sunscreen

Choose a sunscreen with good protection against UVA and UVB. This is because both UVA and UVB rays cause skin cancer. The SPF shows how much protection the sunscreen gives against UVB radiation – as long as you put enough on.

The higher the SPF number, the more protection it provides by filtering out UVB rays:

  • SPF 15 filters out 93%
  • SPF 30 filters out 96%
  • SPF 60 filters out 98%

In the UK, the level of UVA protection is shown in 1 of 2 ways:

You should see a star rating of up to 5 stars on UK sunscreens. Use a product with at least 4 stars. 

A symbol with the letters UVA inside a circle is a European marking. It means that it meets the European Standard.

Vitamin D

We all need vitamin D to help build and maintain strong bones, teeth and muscles. A lack of vitamin D (vitamin D deficiency) could cause problems in the long term. For example, it could cause a bone condition called osteoporosis in adults.

Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D. Avoiding direct sunlight by covering up and using sunscreen can help reduce the risk of melanoma. But it can also reduce the amount of vitamin D in your body.

You can also get vitamin D from some foods including:

  • oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon
  • eggs
  • red meat
  • fortified margarine and cereals

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend that everyone diagnosed with a melanoma should have a blood test to measure their levels of vitamin D. Your skin specialist will then suggest whether you need to take a vitamin D supplement or not. Ask your skin specialist or GP about this if vitamin D testing or supplements have not been discussed with you.

Last reviewed: 
16 Aug 2018
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    Sophie C.Flohil and others
    European Journal of Cancer, Volume 49, Issue 10, July 2013, Pages 2365-2375

  • Melanoma: assessment and management. NICE guideline
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2015

  • PHE publishes new advice on vitamin D. Press release.
    Public Health England, 21st July, 2016

  • SACN vitamin D and health report. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommendations on vitamin D.
    Public Health England, 21 July, 2016

  • Hat, shade, long sleeves, or sunscreen? Rethinking US sun protection messages based on their relative effectiveness
    Linos E (and others)
    Cancer Causes Contro. 2011 Jul;22(7):1067-71

  • Sunscreens
    Bens G
    Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 2014;810:429-63S

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

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