01 May Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. UV radiation can also come from tanning booths or sunlamps. The most dangerous kind of skin cancer is called melanoma.
The good news? Skin cancer can almost always be cured when it’s found and treated early — even melanoma. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to prevent skin cancer or detect it early on.
Take Steps to Prevent Skin Cancer
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun and other sources of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
To protect your skin:
- Stay in the shade as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
- Cover up with long sleeves, long pants or a skirt, a hat, and sunglasses.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
Why do I need to protect my skin?
Protecting your skin today may help prevent skin cancer later in life. Most skin cancer appears after age 50, but skin damage from the sun can start during childhood.
Taking steps to prevent skin cancer may also help prevent:
- Blotches or spots on your skin
- Other damage to your skin and eyes
What causes skin cancer?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. UV radiation can also come from tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps.
Anyone can get skin cancer. The risk is highest for people with:
- Fair (white or light-colored) skin with freckles
- Blond or red hair
- Blue or green eyes
You are at higher risk for the most dangerous type of skin cancer (melanoma) if you have:
- Unusual moles (moles that change color, grow unevenly, or change in texture)
- A large number of moles (more than 50)
- A family history of melanoma or unusual moles
- Fair skin that burns easily
- A personal history of many blistering sunburns, especially when you were a child or teenager
Find out more about unusual moles and melanoma risk. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you are concerned.
Take these simple steps to help prevent skin cancer.
Cover up with long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants or a long skirt. Clothes made from tightly woven fabrics are best.
Wear a hat – a hat with a wide brim that protects your face and neck works best. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. If you wear a baseball cap or visor, be sure to protect your ears and the back of your neck with sunscreen.
Wear sunglasses that block UV light. This will help protect your eyes and the skin around them from sun damage. Wrap-around sunglasses are best, because they block UV rays from the side.
Stay in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The sun’s rays are the strongest from mid-morning to late afternoon. Try to stay out of the sun during these hours. If you are outside, stay in the shade – like under a tree or umbrella.
Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
Use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. Check the expiration date on the bottle to make sure it’s not out of date.
To get the most protection:
- Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days. UV rays can still harm your skin through the clouds.
- Plan ahead – put sunscreen on 30 minutes before you go outside. Put on more sunscreen every 2 hours and after you swim or sweat.
- Be sure to use enough sunscreen (a handful). Don’t forget to apply it to your ears, hands, feet, the back of your neck, and any part of your scalp that isn’t covered by hair.
- Use lip balm with sunscreen to protect your lips.
- If you wear very lightweight clothing (like a beach cover-up or thin T-shirt), put sunscreen on under your clothes.
Take Action: Healthy Habits
Avoid indoor tanning.
Tanning beds, tanning booths, and sunlamps are not any safer than tanning in the sun.
Just like tanning in the sun, indoor tanning can cause skin cancer, wrinkles, age spots, and other damage to your skin and eyes. Read more about the risks of indoor tanning.
Check your skin regularly.
See a doctor or nurse right away if you notice:
- A new growth on your skin
- An existing growth that has changed in size, shape, color, or feel
- A mole that bleeds or a sore that doesn’t heal
Most changes are harmless, but only a doctor or Nurse Practitioner can only determine, call to schedule your skin check today.