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Preventing Skin Cancer

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. In fact, more than 600,000 Americans develop the disease each year. Most skin cancer is caused by exposure to the sun. However, artificial sources of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, like tanning booths and sun lamps, can also cause skin cancer.

Basal cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer. It affects the cells beneath the skin and can appear as a solid pinkish nodule, a red spot, a white area resembling scar tissue, or a skin ulcer that does not heal. Squamous cell cancer is less common, but more dangerous because it can spread to other organs. These growths have a more raised or lumpy look and tend to bleed more easily.

Who needs to be concerned about skin cancer?

Everyone! Anybody can develop skin cancer, but the risk of doing so is even higher if:

  • You have red or blond hair, blue or light-colored eyes, or fair skin;
  • You freckle or burn easily;
  • You have had substantial lifetime exposure to the sun;
  • You have a personal history of nonmelanomatous skin cancers.

What can I do to prevent skin cancer?

The easiest and most effective way to prevent skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to the sun.

  • Try not to spend too much time in the sun, especially mid-day sun (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored, long-sleeved clothing when outdoors, and consider wearing a broad-brimmed hat.
  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 15. But beware! Wearing a sunscreen does not mean you can sit in the sun all day!

Additional Information

Skin cancer is preventable, but if it is found and brought to a doctor's attention in its earliest stages, it is almost always curable.

Skin cancer is most often found on the face, neck, and arms, but can occur anywhere. Check your skin regularly, and report anything unusual to your doctor.

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