Know how to detect and protect from skin cancer
Sunshine has many positive health benefits, but all things in moderation. Taking care of your skin is important. 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common form of cancer in the U.S.1 You don’t have to go full vampire, but knowing what to look for, how to protect your skin and getting regular screenings can help lead to early detection and treatment.
What to look for
There are 3 common types of skin cancer. These occur when the DNA in the skin cells becomes mutated from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays or tanning beds.2
Squamous cell skin cancer: This is one of the most common and treatable types of skin cancer. It usually is caused by sun exposure and found on body parts that are exposed. Squamous cell cancer can look like:
- Rough or scaly red patches
- Open sores that don’t heal or heal and return
- Wart-like growths3
Basal cell skin cancer: This is a common type of skin cancer that usually is found on the neck, face or other body parts exposed to the sun. Basal cell cancer can look like:
- Flat, firm, scar-like marks
- Pink or red pearly bumps
- Pink growths with raised edges and a dipped center
- Open sores that don’t heal or heal and return4
Melanoma: This type of cancer can affect any part of the body, not just skin exposed to the sun. It can occur in moles that become cancerous or in skin that otherwise looks normal. In men, it most often appears on the face or trunk. For women, it most often occurs on the lower leg.5 Melanoma can look like:
- A mole that has changed in size or color or starts to bleed
- A small lesion that has irregular borders and can appear as pink, red, white, blue or blue-black
- A large brownish spot that has darker freckles Dark lesions appearing on palms, soles, fingertips, toes or inside mucus membranes6
5 ways to prevent and protect
Before you get suspicious of every freckle that lives on your body, there are ways to help protect yourself and prevent skin cancer. Here are a few tips you can put into practice today:
- Cover up: Clothing is a very effective form of protection from the sun. Wearing long sleeves, wide-brim hats and protective sunglasses can help protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
- Slather on the SPF: If a person has had more than 5 sunburns, the risk of melanoma doubles. However, using a daily sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher can help reduce the risk of melanoma by 50%. Lotion up daily, year round!
- Seek the shade: Find cover from the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is at its most powerful, to reduce the risk of sunburn.
- Know your body: Monthly self-scans can help familiarize yourself with your skin. Do a thorough skin check, head to toe, once a month and keep an eye on your freckles, moles and general skin landscape.
- Make an appointment: Get yearly skin screenings with your doctor to monitor any areas of concerns, watch for any new formations and ask any questions you may have.7
- “Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection,” American Cancer Society, last accessed March 1, 2019, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection.html.
- “Skin Cancer,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed March 1, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/skin-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20377605.
- “Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC),” Skin Cancer Foundation, last accessed March 19,2019, https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/squamous-cell-carcinoma.
- “Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC),” Skin Cancer Foundation, last accessed March 19, 2019, https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma.
- “What Is Skin Cancer?,” American Cancer Society, last accessed March 19, 2019, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/what-is-skin-cancer.html.
- “Skin Cancer.”
- “The Mini Skin Cancer Prevention Handbook,” Skin Cancer Foundation, last accessed March 1, 2019, https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/graphics/handbook.