Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection


Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., affecting more than 1 million people each year, according to the American Cancer Society. This condition can affect anyone at any age but is more likely to develop in light-skinned people, those with a family history of skin cancer, those over 50 and those subjected to sun exposure regularly. Skin cancer is most commonly found on the face, neck, hands and arms.

Skin Cancer Definition

  • Skin cancer occurs when skin cells grow abnormally, and if not treated these cancer cells can spread throughout the body. Prognosis depends on the kind of cancer it is and its stage when diagnosed. There are three main types of skin cancer, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

    Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are classified as non- melanoma cancer and are less likely to spread to other parts of the body. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and affects up to 90 percent of those diagnosed. This type of cancer develops mostly on the upper body. Melanoma skin cancer is the most serious, especially among younger people, and most likely to cause death. This skin cancer develops mostly on the lower body.

Skin Cancer Prevention

  • As UV exposure is one of the primary risk factors for developing skin cancer; avoid sun exposure during the middle part of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is at its hottest. Wear protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts and pants or UV-approved protective clothing with a UPF 50. Darker-colored clothing gives more UV protection than lighter colors.

    Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and UVA and UVB protection. Wear sunscreen year round, even on cloudy days and in the winter. Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure and continue to reapply regularly, at least twice hourly, while exposed to the sun, especially if in the water or sweating. Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.

Early Detection of Skin Cancer

  • For early detection of skin cancer, you should examine yourself monthly, the National Cancer Institute says. Any unusual skin markings, moles or skin growths or changes to existing markings should be reported to a doctor immediately. Use a mirror in a well-lighted room to check hard-to-see areas of the body. Growths that are dark in color with uneven margins, itchy or tender, oozing, bleeding or scaly should be reported.

    Early detection of skin cancer can also be effective with once-a-year screening by a health professional performing a whole body skin examination. This is important especially if there is a family history of skin cancer or for those over 50 years old; if found early enough, any skin abnormalities can be treated before they become cancerous.

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