Skin Cancer Risk Factors and Prevention

According to the American Cancer Society,  most of the more than 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed yearly in the United States are considered to be sun-related.

In 2007, melanoma accounted for almost 60,000 cases of skin cancer. Out of the almost 11,000 deaths from skin cancer last year, 8,100 were from melanoma.

Knowing what the risk factors are for skin cancers and melanoma is half the battle in protecting yourself.  Risk factors include:

  • Fair complexion
  • Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to UV radiation
  • Family history
  • Multiple or atypical moles
  • Severe sunburns during childhood
  • Occupational exposures to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds, or radium

Skin Cancer Prevention

One of the main preventive measures one can take to avoid skin cancer is not being out in intense sunlight for long periods of time. Some other preventive measures include:

  • Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. avoid the sun.
  • Search for shady spots to protect yourself under especially during the hottest times of the day.
  • Put a shirt on or make sure your body is covered to prevent UV exposure.   Make sure the clothing is made of tightly woven fabrics and that you can’t see through it when you hold it up to the light.
  • Lather up on the sunscreen.  Use sunscreen and lip balm with at least an SPF of 15.  Use sunscreen even on days when it is cloudy or overcast.  UV rays travel through clouds.
  • Put on a hat.  If you wear a baseball cap, lather on the sunscreen on your ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption to provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.
  • Avoid tanning beds, tanning lamps and other sources of UV light.  These are dangerous.

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