The weather is getting nicer every day, and after a year of isolation, Canadians are more than ready to get outside for some well-deserved time in the sun. And, of course, we’ll wear our hats and put on our sunscreen. We all know the risks of skin cancer, after all. Or do we?

There’s only one sun in the sky, and while we crave it, the damage to our skin can be far reaching. Each skin cancer diagnosis is unique to the individual, and there can be a pretty big difference in terms of what you need to do and how concerned you need to be. Even as we become more diligent about prevention, cases of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, has been increasing among Canadians since 1994.

“The survival rates for stage 4 melanoma have improved in the last decade thanks to research. Today, even patients with advanced cancers have good cause for hope,” says Medical Oncologist Dr. Michael Smylie. “A decade ago, if you had stage 4 melanoma, you had only about a 15 to 20% chance of surviving five years. Today we are seeing up to half of these patients, in the right circumstances, surviving five years or longer. We see people going back to work and living their lives.”

To get a tailored treatment plan, you need to be well informed about your cancer. What stage is it? What are its genetic characteristics? Knowing the answers to these questions is very important.

“The more we know about the genetics of a patient’s cancer, the better equipped we are to treat it, says Dr. Smylie. “Today we are focused on identifying gene mutations that cause the cancer to grow and spread. The most common is BRAF, and almost half of melanoma patients will have this mutation. With this knowledge we are able to have informed conversations about their treatment path.”



Drawing courtesy Michael Thomson

“I am newly diagnosed with metastatic malignant melanoma, and I plan to survive it.” – SHERI

“My melanoma came back, but I’m not letting fear in.”– BOB

“I was in end-of-life care when my doctor recommended I take part in a clinical trial.”– MIKE

“Learning that my melanoma was BRAF+ was a huge weight off my shoulders. That knowledge shaped my path through the disease.”– COLIN

“Melanoma research literally saved my life. Today I’m surrounded with the support of the melanoma community and I know they have my back.” – NATALIE

The sun is not our enemy. You can still enjoy being outside, you just have to be smart about it.  While a melanoma diagnosis can be scary, there is hope. “Just as every patient is unique, every case of skin cancer has its own story. Research has dramatically changed the way we view advanced melanoma,” says Kathy Barnard, founder of the Save Your Skin Foundation, and melanoma survivor. “If you’re worried about melanoma, or have received a diagnosis, it’s time to arm yourself with the best and newest information. I was there once and can tell you that we are all in it together.”

For more about melanoma, support after a diagnosis and mutation information, visit For personal melanoma stories of hope and inspiration, click here.

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