Do You Know How to Prevent Skin Cancer?

Do You Know How to Prevent Skin Cancer?

skin cancer awareness mothMay is skin cancer awareness month.

With the weather getting warmer and clothes getting lighter, it’s the perfect time to learn more about how you can protect yourself from sun damage. Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the treatment for skin cancer costs Americans $8.1 billion yearly. The number of skin cancer cases each year continues to increase, so it’s important to know the warning signs and ways you can prevent damage to your skin.

What causes skin cancer?

About 90% of skin cancer cases are a direct result of sun exposure. We tend to think that spring and summer is the time to lather up on SPF, but year-round protection is important to prevent damage from the sun’s rays.

What are the types of skin cancer?

There are several types of skin cancer, but squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma are the most common.

  • Squamous cells: This is the second-most common type of skin cancer–about 2 out of 10 skin cancer cases. It most often appear on the face, ears, neck, lips and backs of the hands. Squamous cell cancers are more likely spread to other parts of the body but can still occur. They can also sometimes start in actinic keratoses. Actinic keratosis is a type of precancerous growth and is the most common type of precancerous skin lesion.
  • Basal cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of skin cancer–about 8 out of 10 skin cancer cases. Basal cell carcinoma commonly occurs on the head and neck and usually progress slowly. If left untreated, basal cells can grow into other areas of the body. Basal cell carcinoma can come back if it isn’t fully removed.


What are the warning signs?

When performing regular skin self-examinations, it’s important to check for any changes in your skin. This can include changes in size, shape or color of a mole, a new growth on the skin or a sore or lesion that won’t heal. If you notice any changes or experience persistent itching or bleeding, you should see your dermatologist.

How can I protect myself?

Since sun exposure is the prime cause of skin cancer, limiting your time spent in the sun can help prevent skin cancer. However, it’s important to remember that there are other sources of UV rays that could cause skin cancer, too, including tanning beds.

When you are outside, be sure you apply sunscreen. Wearing protective clothing or laying in the shade can also help limit your sun exposure and help protect your skin from harmful sun damage.

What kind of sunscreen should I use?

When you are outside, be sure you are wearing a broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sunscreen helps protect you against UVA and UVB rays. While UVA rays can age your skin, UVB rays are the primary culprits of sunburn. Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen ensures you are protected against both.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, SPF 30 sunscreen blocks up to 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. No sunscreen can block 100% of sun exposure, but you should at least use a sunscreen listed as SPF 30. Be sure to re-apply your sunscreen every two hours for the best chance at protection from sun damage.

Protecting yourself from the sun is important—it can keep your skin from prematurely aging and reduce your risk of skin cancer. Remember that sun protection is a year-round effort. You can help keep your skin healthy by following these tips and giving yourself regular self-skin exams.