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Protect the skin you’re in!

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, estimated to surpass all other cancers combined. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices. Genetic factors, such as being fair-skinned or having a family history of skin cancer can contribute to a person’s risk.

We can help protect our skin from cancer by avoiding lengthy exposure to UV radiation. Learn how to protect skin from the main sources of UV radiation—the sun and indoor tanning—and how to find skin cancer early, when it’s easier to treat.

Follow the 5 Ss to reduce your risk for skin cancer.

  • Slip on sun protective clothing.
  • Slop on broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen.
  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Seek shade or shelter, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Slide on UV protective sunglasses.

Is a tan worth the risk of cancer?
Tanning beds produce ultraviolet light which damages the skin. Research has shown that using indoor tanning devices can cause melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. There is now evidence to say that indoor tanning also increases the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as cataracts and cancers of the eye. Your best bet is to skip indoor tanning and love the skin you’re in.

Check your skin regularly.
Checking your skin from head to toe on a regular basis can help you to identify changes in your skin that could be cancerous or pre-cancerous. Use a handheld mirror or ask a friend or partner to help you check areas you can't see (such as your back or scalp) and look for the ABCDEF's. Take a photo or note any moles that look suspicious to compare from month-to-month.

  • A: Asymmetry. If you draw a line through the middle, the two sides should match. If the two halves do not match, it could be a sign of melanoma.
  • B: Border. A benign, or harmless, mole has a smooth border. Uneven, jagged, or irregular borders could be a sign of cancer.
  • C: Color. Most moles are one color. Moles that have a variety of colors or change color over time should be checked by a doctor.
  • D: Diameter. Moles that are larger than 6mm in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser, should be checked by a doctor.
  • E: Evolving. Moles that change over time, whether getting larger or changing color, itching, bleeding, or crusting, could be cancerous and should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • F: Feeling. Has the sensation or feeling around the mole changed? Does it itch or is it painful?

Learn more about how to perform a skin self-examination and see examples of what to look for from the Skin Cancer Foundation.