Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in this United States, but it is also one of the most preventable. With the heat and activity of the summer months still upon us, it is important to be proactive in protecting your skin from the sun and other sources of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
UV rays are invisible to the naked eye and are more intense in the summer, at higher altitudes, and in areas closer to the equator. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes sunburn (erythema), skin cancer, premature aging (skin wrinkling), cataracts (gradual clouding of the lens of the eye), immune system suppression, DNA damage and dilated blood vessels.
The most important way for a person to lower his or her risk for skin cancer is to avoid exposure to UV radiation, either from the sun or other sources, such as tanning lamps.
7 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
The American Cancer Society recommends the following seven practices for sun safety:
- Protect skin with clothing, such as long sleeve shirts and hats with broad brim.
- Avoid being outdoors when the ultraviolet light is strongest, particularly between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Seek shade
- Use sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of 30 or more on areas of the skin exposed to the sun. Products should be used on hazy or overcast days as well. Check out our blog on how to read a sunscreen label.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV absorption to provide the best protection for the eyes and the skin around the eyes.
- Avoid other sources of UV lights, such as tanning beds and sun lamps.
- Protect children from the sun by using the same precautions as adults.
Self-Examinations for Skin Cancer
Skin cancer can appear in hidden places like eyelids!
Early detection is key in successful skin cancer treatment. Take the time to regularly check your skin for abnormalities and spot changes. Some areas that are hard to remember to check are your scalp, ears, eyelids and back. Ask a family member or friend to help you check your skin in these hard-to-see areas. Here’s an easy ABCDE list our skin cancer specialists suggest you use when checking your skin:
- Asymmetry. If you draw an imaginary line through the middle of a melanoma, the two halves would not match.
- Border. The edges of a melanoma are usually uneven, fuzzy or jagged.
- Color. Melanomas change colors and are often a combination of black, brown and tan.
- Diameter. Melanomas may grow larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
- Elevation. Once a mark on your skin becomes raised or thicker, it is a serious red flag indicating a melanoma may be spreading and should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.
If you find any areas of concern on your skin, immediately schedule an appointment with your primary doctor. They can help you determine what it is and if you need to be referred to a skin cancer specialist for further diagnosis. As a community-based cancer care provider with clinic locations throughout the state, our skin cancer doctors help cancer patients and their families access a full range of advanced skin cancer care services in an environment that allows patients to remain close to their homes. Through its affiliation with The US Oncology Network, one of the nation’s largest healthcare services networks dedicated exclusively to cancer treatment and research, our skin cancer specialists can quickly bring the latest advances in therapies, research and technology to where patients live. As a result, patients access the best possible treatment with the least amount of disruption to their daily lives.
Originally published May 2015. Updated May 2019.