7 Important Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer

Prevent most skin cancers or ensure early detection with these easy strategies:

  1. Don't skimp on sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. Apply at least two tablespoons to your body 30 minutes before going in the sun and then reapply every two hours or right after going in the water. Choose a sunscreen designed for an active lifestyle if you play sports or sweat a lot.
  2. Cover up. Sunscreen is effective when used properly, but it's not magic. Broad-brimmed hats, long sleeves and UV-blocking sunglasses further protect the skin and eyes.
  3. Seek shelter from the midday sun. UVB rays are at their strongest, and most damaging, between 10 am and 2 pm. Avoid being outside during this window of time—or if you must be, be extra-vigilant about protecting your skin.
  4. Stay away from tanning salons. Sun lamps used in tanning salons emit doses of UVA that are as much as 12 times stronger than those delivered by the sun. Research has shown that people who use tanning salons are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.
  5. Examine your skin monthly. Eighty percent of skin cancers are found by patients and their family members. Once a month, give your skin a head-to-toe once-over, and ask your partner to look at your back. If you see something suspicious or unfamiliar, have a doctor check it out.
  6. Get annual checkups. Schedule regular doctor's visits at least once a year. Make sure your skin gets a thorough going-over, and ask questions about any spots you're concerned about.
  7. If you're high risk, ask your doctor for a mole map. A mole map is a series of photographs of the entire surface of your skin. Typically, you keep one copy and your doctor keeps one, providing a baseline reference for tracking moles. By referring to these photos during skin self-exams or office visits, patients and physicians are better able to determine when a change has occurred in any mole on the body.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 10 May 2011

Last Modified: 26 Feb 2015