Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with more than 9,000 people diagnosed in the United States every day. Skin cancer can affect anyone at any point throughout their life. It is often linked to sun exposure, which can increase your risk of melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
To reduce your risk, check out seven ways you can help prevent skin cancer throughout your lifetime:
1. Limit Direct Sun Exposure
The best way to reduce your risk of skin cancer is by avoiding direct and prolonged sun exposure. Frequent sunburns damage your skin cells and can lead to melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and other issues.
When you limit your sun exposure, you are avoiding sunburn and reducing your overall risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer. One way to limit your sun exposure is by scheduling outdoor activities for later in the evening, after 6 p.m., or very early in the morning, before 10 a.m.
2. Apply Sunscreen Daily
While limiting sun exposure can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, it is not always possible to avoid the sun. Everyone enjoys outdoor activities and spending some time in the sunlight. This is why it is important to apply sunscreen every day.
A good sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher should be part of your regular skincare routine. This will provide a level of protection from the sun’s harmful rays, helping prevent skin cancer in the long run.
3. Wear Protective Clothing
If you know that you are going to be outdoors in direct sunlight, it helps to wear protective clothing and accessories. Even with sunscreen applied, your skin can still be susceptible to harmful UV rays. To help protect your skin, wear long sleeves and pants. A hat with a wide brim can protect the delicate skin on your face as well.
Sometimes, it is simply too hot to wear protective clothing. When the weather is too warm for long sleeves or pants, try to seek shade under trees, tents, or awnings when outdoors for long periods of time.
4. Do Not Use Tanning Beds
One of the leading causes of skin cancer is tanning bed use. While the sun’s UV rays can lead to cancer formation, tanning bed use has also been linked to an increased risk. This is particularly true for younger people between the ages of 18 and 25.
If you want to get a summer glow without using tanning beds or spending time in the sun, you can use topical tanning products like spray tans or gradual tanning lotions.
5. Monitor Moles and Freckles
Almost everyone has moles and freckles on various areas of their body. Moles, freckles, and birthmarks are most often found on the face, back, and arms. If you have any of these on your skin, be sure to monitor them for signs of skin cancer. Indicators that a skin lesion has become cancerous may include:
- Enlarged size
- Change in color
- Uneven edges
Doing a monthly check of your moles and freckles can help you keep track of any of these changes. If you notice that a mole or freckle has changed in appearance, have it examined right away to determine whether there is skin cancer present.
6. Know Your Family History
Some cases of skin cancer are related to genetics. If you have a family history of skin cancer, you may be at an increased risk of developing the disease yourself. This is why it is essential that you know your family history. If someone in your family has had skin cancer of any type, make sure to notify your skincare provider.
While you can develop skin cancer with any skin type, it is incredibly common in people who are fair-skinned. If you have light hair, light eyes, and a pale complexion, you may be at an increased risk of being diagnosed. Families with more fair complexions and skin tones should be vigilant about keeping track of skin cancer symptoms.
7. Get an Annual Skin Check
One of the most important ways to prevent skin cancer is by getting an annual skin check.
During an annual skin check, a skincare specialist examines your skin from head to toe and evaluates any moles, freckles, or lesions that you have. The specialist will look for any abnormalities that can indicate skin cancer, such as enlarged size, asymmetry, or uneven edges.
Having a regular skincare provider can help during your annual skin check, as there will be a record of any moles or lesions you had in previous years. This helps the specialist keep track of any changes to your existing skin lesions that could signal skin cancer in development.
Where to Get Your Skin Checked
Getting your annual skin check is essential for preventing skin cancer and detecting the disease in its earliest stages.
At the Wisconsin Institute of Plastic Surgery, our dermatology physician assistants can thoroughly check your skin and evaluate any moles or freckles for signs of skin cancer. We also provide mole removal for lesions that are abnormal or concerning.
Our providers bring a combined 34 years of experience to your appointment, ensuring you get the quality care that you need. During your skin check, we can help you understand the signs of skin cancer and how you can prevent a future diagnosis.