Preventing Skin Cancer
Take these simple measures to dramatically reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Limit your sun exposure and stay in the shade whenever possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Avoid sunlamps and tanning booths.
- Apply a UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
- Cover up with long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- For extended outdoor activities, apply a water-resistant UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun and use sunscreen on babies over six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month and see your physician once a year for a professional skin exam.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
It is important to be aware of any risk factors you may have for developing skin cancer and modify or eliminate them when possible. Keep in mind that having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will definitely get the disease, and having no risk factors does not mean that you cannot develop it.
Studies have linked several risk factors for the most common types of skin cancer:
- Personal or family history of skin cancer
- Frequent or intense exposure to sunlight
- Use of sunlamps or tanning booths
- History of severe, blistering sunburns
- Having fair skin that sunburns easily
- Use of certain antibiotics, hormones or antidepressants
Both you and your doctor need to be aware of any factors that could increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Self-Examination
Perform a head-to-toe self-examination once a month to detect any precancerous or cancerous lesions at an early stage.
Dermatologists recommend the following ABCDEs guidelines when self-examining moles. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist.
- Asymmetry — One half of the mole does not match the other half.
- Border — The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred or irregular.
- Color — The color of the mole is not the same throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white or red.
- Diameter — The diameter of a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil.
- Evolution — The mole is changing in size, shape or color.
Complete Skin Checkup
If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, you will want to see a dermatologist once a year for a complete skin checkup. This usually takes about 15 minutes and includes a medical history review as well as a head-to-toe examination. Make sure to call your doctor’s attention to any irregular spots you may have noticed in your last monthly self-exam.
Our physicians specialize in managing skin cancer at the following convenient Houston Methodist Cancer Center locations.