Skin Cancer: Prevention & Risk Factors

Skin cancer diagnoses continue to increase, making it the most common cancer in the United States. While diagnoses are frequent, there are ways to protect yourself and catch it early.

Most skin cancers are the result of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. A majority of this exposure comes from the sun, but can also come from man-made sources, like indoor tanning beds and sun lamps.

At SSM Health, our primary care physicians, dermatologists and cancer specialists all agree that prevention and early detection are key in combatting the risk of skin cancer. Detection is easy when all you need are your eyes and a mirror. Prevention though, takes a little more work.

Avoiding the Damaging Effects of the Sun

Protection from overexposure of the sun is extremely important, not just for those days relaxing at the pool or the beach. Below are a few tips to keep your skin healthy:

  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure
  • Reapply sunscreen often when swimming
  • Choose a sunscreen that offers protection from UV-A and UV-B rays
  • Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30
  • Limit your sun exposure between 9 am - 4 pm
  • Never expose babies to direct sunlight; if it’s unavoidable, cover them with clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Avoid tanning salons

Skin Cancer Risk Factors

While the exact cause of skin cancer is unknown, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing these types of cancer.

  • Previous case of skin cancer
  • Family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
  • Multiple, irregular or large moles
  • Freckles
  • Easily burn before tanning
  • Fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red or light brown hair
  • Use of medications that make your skin more sensitive to light.

The above list is not exhaustive, but no matter your risk, the doctors at SSM Health believe in preventative health. If you’re concerned about your risks, make an appointment with your primary care physician or dermatologist. They’ll develop strategies, fit to your lifestyle, and help you keep your skin healthy.

Remember to always be on the lookout for suspicious moles, freckles, or other uncommon growths on your skin. Visit your doctor for regular checkups and have any areas of concern examined by your doctor.

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