No one is totally immune to skin cancer. Individuals with any shade of skin can get it, although fair-skinned people are more susceptible than others.
Because skin cancer is so prevalent, experts continue to stress that there is no such thing as a healthy suntan and that you must protect yourself from overexposure to the sun.
- Minimize your sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are most intense.
- Apply sunscreen liberally and frequently. Reapply every two hours—and immediately after swimming or sweating a lot. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 year-round.
- Use your sunscreen on cloudy days—roughly 80% of the sun's rays can penetrate clouds.
- Be aware that sand, snow, concrete and water can reflect the sun's harmful rays.
- Avoid tanning booths and sunlamps. The ultraviolet rays they emit are similar to those in sunlight and can cause sunburn and premature skin aging as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.
- Cover up. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Remember that certain medications, including some acne medications and antibiotics, may make skin burn more easily. Consult your doctor or pharmacist about how to protect your skin if you're taking one of these medicines.
- If you have children, limit their exposure to the sun and make sure they always wear sunscreen. One blistering sunburn in childhood can double the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
You should also examine your skin monthly for abnormal moles or other irregularities. Check your skin using this A to E list.
Asymmetry. One half of the mole doesn't look identical to the other half.
Border irregularity. The edges of the mole are pointed, notched, blurred or ragged.
Color variation. The mole has two or more distinctly different colors.
Diameter. The mole is more than 6 millimeters in diameter—about the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolving. A mole or skin lesion looks different from others, or is changing in size, shape or color.