how to prevent skin cancer
Healthy Living

How to Prevent Skin Cancer: What to Know

Jun 20 2024

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. More than 5 million cases are treated every year in the U.S. One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime. Do your best to avoid falling into that statistic with these 10 common ways on how to prevent skin cancer.

Tips on how to avoid skin cancer

There are three primary types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Since the main cause of skin cancer is exposure to UV light, or sunlight, it’s considered a lifestyle disease. And it can affect anyone, regardless of age or skin tone.

The good news is that because it’s a result of lifestyle, it’s also possible to prevent. With a little extra care, you can lower your risk for skin cancer, even if you spend time outdoors.

Check UV reports

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the most common cause of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Before you head outside each day, check your area’s UV reports. These show how strong the sunlight will be, using a scale from 1 to 10. The higher the UV rating is, the more sun protection steps you should take.

Reapply sunscreen frequently

It’s important to put on sunscreen about 30 minutes before you head outside. It’s equally important to reapply it while you’re outdoors. Sunscreen eventually stops being effective after you put it on. And sweat and water can wash it away.

Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours you’re outdoors and every hour if you’re swimming or sweating. Also, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by cloudy days – skin damage from sun exposure can still happen with cloud cover.

Be safe by water, snow and sand

Snow, water and sand reflect sunlight, increasing your chances of getting sunburn. Keep your skin covered and wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes from bright glares in these terrains.

Do regular self-exams

Once a month, check for new or changing spots on your skin. Look at the front and back of your body in a mirror. Bend your elbows and check your forearms, palms, armpits and fingers. Look at the backs of your legs, your toes and the soles of your feet. Use a handheld mirror to check the back of your neck and your scalp.

Let your doctor know about any changes you notice.

Give up the tanning bed

Just like sunlight can, UV light from a tanning bed may also cause skin cancer, according to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. Use a sunless tanning lotion instead to get a golden glow.

Hang out in the shade

Head indoors when the sun’s rays are strongest — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunlight can cause more damage to your skin during these hours. If you’ll be outside, stay in the shade. Wear protective clothing, like a long-sleeved shirt, pants, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, too.

Check your cosmetics

Like sunscreen, some makeup and skincare products have SPF ingredients in them. However, using them alone usually doesn’t provide enough sun protection. Pair these products with sunscreen if they have SPF ratings below 15.

Watch out for windows

Even if you’re indoors during the brightest times of the day, sit away from the windows. Many home windows don’t block UV light, which means it can still damage your skin through the glass. You’ll still need to protect your skin from the sun if you plan to be near windows for an extended period of time.

Visit your doctor regularly

The earlier your doctor finds skin cancer, the easier it is to treat. Visit a dermatologist at least once a year for a skin checkup. A dermatologist is a type of doctor who can diagnose and treat skin disorders. At your checkup, your dermatologist looks at your skin from head to toe to see if you have any troublesome spots.

Stay sun smart

While there’s no way to definitively avoid developing skin cancer, understanding your personal risk of skin cancer can improve your chances. People with a family history of skin cancer, have jobs or hobbies that require you to spend a lot of time in the sun or have fair or lighter skin are at higher risk.

How we can help

Following just one of these helpful tips is a great way to lower your risk of getting skin cancer. But the more steps you take, the better your chances are at keeping your skin healthy.

Early detection is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer. Make an appointment with a dermatologist and discuss more important ways to prevent and identify skin cancer.

Learn about the dermatology services we offer at Mercy Health.

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