How to Prevent Skin Cancer

Tamera Jackson by Tamera Jackson | Licensed since 2007
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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Staying out of the sun will do more than simply prevent premature aging and wrinkles: protecting yourself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation may lower your risk of skin cancer. Learn how to prevent skin cancer with these simple tips.

Skin cancer statistics

The statistics surrounding skin cancer are staggering. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will get skin cancer over the course of a lifetime, and someone dies of melanoma every hour.

According to the Mayo Clinic, skin cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of your skin cells, and most of this damage is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. So, being mindful of and minimizing your exposure to UV radiation is one step you can take to reduce your risk of skin cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sources of UV radiation exposure include:

  • The sun
  • Tanning beds
  • Fluorescent or halogen lights
  • Certain types of lasers
  • Mercury vapor lighting

There are risk factors for skin cancer that are outside of your control. For example, according to the CDC, those with lighter skin color or skin that freckles or gets sunburned easily may have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

How to prevent skin cancer

Still, there are many things you can do to lower your risk of skin cancer, and most types of skin cancer are preventable. Here’s how to prevent skin cancer, or at least lower your risk, according to the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat when going outdoors. Put on long-sleeved clothes that cover your arms and legs.
  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 every day, even on cloudy days, and reapply after swimming or exercising, or at least every two hours. Use water-resistant sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays (often marketed as “broad spectrum”).
  • Do not indoor tan, which significantly increases your risk of skin cancer.
  • Stay indoors, as much as possible, from 10AM to 2PM. UV exposure is at its peak during this time.
  • Keep in mind that certain areas (such as water, snow, beaches, or cement) reflect and magnify the sun’s exposure and may increase your risk of skin cancer.

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