Skin cancer is the most preventable type of cancer – yet the number of cases continues to grow. In the U.S., more than 3.5 million cases are diagnosed every year. That’s more than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. Experts predict that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.
People of all skin colors and races can develop skin cancer; however, those at the highest risk are people with fair skin and blue eyes, those who sunburn easily and those who have a lot of freckles. Additional risk factors include previous sunburns, a family history of skin cancer, a weakened immune system, scarring on your skin caused by a disease, and exposure to X-rays, tanning beds or sunlamps, or to cancer-causing compounds (such as arsenic).
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun damage your skin and, over time, lead to skin cancer. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid too much sun exposure – especially sunburns. Here’s how:
- Avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your face and ears and long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go out in the sun and reapply often – especially when swimming or sweating.
- Wear sunglasses with UVA protection to shield your eyes and use a lip balm with sunscreen to protect your lips.
- Don’t use tanning beds or sunlamps.