Skin cancer is largely preventable, and if caught early, it's usually curable. Since most skin cancers are linked to sun exposure, it's important to take precautions when spending time outdoors, no matter what time of year. Too much sun can increase your risk for skin cancer and lead to premature skin aging. Apply sunscreen if you're planning to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes. Make sure to check your skin and see a dermatologist regularly.
The majority of sun exposure occurs before age 18 and skin cancer can take 20 years or more to develop. Whether your sun bathing days are behind you or you still spend time pursuing the perfect tan, you should be concerned about skin cancer.
Remember, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can reflect off water, sand, concrete and snow, and can reach below the water's surface. Certain types of UV light penetrate fog and clouds, so it's possible to get sunburn even on overcast days.
If you're taking an antibiotic or other medications, ask your doctor or nurse if it may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun.
The guidelines above apply to everyone, but certain individuals are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer and should be especially cautious with sun exposure.
If any of the descriptions below apply to you, see a dermatologist for a full-body examination once a year. Skin cancer risk is cumulative. The more risk factors you have — and the more sun damage over a lifetime — the higher your risk.
Skin cancer risk factors include:
An important part of skin cancer prevention and detection is learning to recognize skin changes that may become cancerous and alerting your doctor to any suspicious moles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more information regarding skin cancer prevention.