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Skin Cancer Prevention


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.

Stay Safe in the Sun

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.

  • Avoid direct sunlight as much as possible during the peak sun hours,  generally 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,  or seek shade during this part of day.
  • Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen — with an SPF of at least 30 —  containing both UVA and UVB protection. Look for ingredients like Parsol  1789 (also known as avobenzone) or titanium dioxide on the label.
  • Reapply sunscreen frequently, at least every two hours when  outdoors, especially if you perspire or you've been swimming. Your best  bet is to choose water-resistant products that are more likely to stay  on your skin.
  • Wear lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher.
  • Wear a hat and other protective clothing while in the sun. Tightly  woven fibers and darker clothing generally provide more protection.  Also, look for products approved by the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Wear UV-protective sunglasses.

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.

Determine Your Skin Cancer Risk

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:

  • Personal history of skin cancer or precancerous skin lesions
  • Tendency to freckle or burn easily
  • Lots of sun exposure throughout your life
  • Many sunburns as a child or adolescent
  • Family history of skin cancer (such as melanoma) or conditions that are more likely to develop into skin cancer, such as dysplastic nevus syndrome or numerous atypical moles
  • Chronic, non-healing wounds or burn injuries
  • Radiation therapy
  • Exposure to toxic materials, such as arsenic
  • Exposure to certain subtypes of human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV 6,11,16 and 18 have been linked to the development of squamous cell carcinoma, especially in patients with compromised immune systems.
  • Organ transplant patients on immunosuppressant drugs have an increased risk of skin cancer

Do Regular Skin Self-Exams

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.

  • Perform a thorough skin check regularly, preferably once a month. Do  this in a brightly lit room in front of a full-length mirror.
  • Go over your entire body carefully, noting any new or suspicious-looking moles.
  • Some find it helpful to record their self-exam results by creating a "body map," or "mole map."
  • Use a hand mirror to see difficult spots like the top of the scalp or back of the legs.
  • Enlist your spouse or a close friend or family member to check hard to see areas.

Source: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/skin_cancer_prevention/

Learn More

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more information regarding skin cancer prevention.