Skin Cancer Prevention

Avoid Sun Exposure

The best protection against skin cancer is to minimize sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

If you do go out in the sun, practice good sun protection habits: use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (with SPF 30 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB), making sure to cover the head, lips, hands, neck, and ears. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing.

Not only will this dramatically decrease your risk of skin cancer, but it will prevent other sun-damaging conditions, like wrinkles and actinic keratoses.

Avoid Tanning Lights

Indoor tanning booths increase the risk of developing skin cancer, despite any claims of their being a safe alternative to natural sunlight. The skin doesn’t tan unless it is first damaged by UV radiation. Intentional tanning should be avoided like any health hazard, such as smoking. 

Skin Cancer Screening

By spotting changes in your moles or finding new, suspicious lesions, you can help your doctor detect skin cancer before it has a chance to spread.

Annual skin self-examinations are recommended for most individuals, but more frequent checks should be done if you have a family history of skin cancer or were previously diagnosed with skin cancer.

Coupled with a yearly skin exam by a doctor, self-examination of your skin once a month is the best way to detect the early warning signs of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the three main types of skin cancer.

In addition, skin self-exams may detect early precancerous skin lesions called actinic keratoses (AKs).

Use a Body Mole Map to record where spots appear on your skin. You can refer to this record the next time you perform a skin exam to determine if there have been any changes.

Because skin cancer can resemble other skin conditions, be sure to tell your doctor about unusual skin changes or lesions, especially these:

  • A sore that comes and goes but never completely heals
  • A shiny bump or nodule, especially if it appears pearly or translucent (these can look brown or reddish and resemble a mole)
  • A slightly raised pink growth with a crusted depression in the center, possibly with tiny blood vessels (capillaries) visible on the surface
  • A patch of skin that is red or irritated, especially on the chest, shoulders, or limbs
  • A white or yellow-ish waxy scar with poorly defined borders

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Last updated: 1/8/2019