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Preventing Skin Cancer

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun. Also, protect children from an early age. Doctors suggest that people of all ages limit their time in the sun and avoid other sources of UV radiation: 

  • It is best to stay out of the midday sun (from mid-morning to late afternoon) whenever you can. You also should protect yourself from UV radiation reflected by sand, water, snow and ice. UV radiation can go through light clothing, windshields, windows and clouds. 
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants of tightly woven fabrics, a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses that absorb UV. 
  • Use sunscreen lotions. Sunscreen may help prevent skin cancer, especially broad-spectrum sunscreen (to filter UVB and UVA rays) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. But you still need to avoid the sun and wear clothing to protect your skin. 
  • Stay away from sunlamps and tanning booths. 
How to do a skin self-exam
Your doctor or nurse may suggest that you do a regular skin self-exam to check for skin cancer, including melanoma. 

The best time to do this exam is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a room with plenty of light. You should use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. It's best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles and other marks are and their usual look and feel. 

Check for anything new: 
  • New mole (that looks different from your other moles) 
  • New red or darker color flaky patch that may be a little raised 
  • New flesh-colored firm bump 
  • Change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole 
  • Sore that does not heal
Check yourself from head to toe. Don't forget to check your back, scalp, genital area and between your buttocks. 
  • Look at your face, neck, ears and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair. It may be hard to check your scalp by yourself. 
  • Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Then, raise your arms and look at your left and right sides. 
  • Bend your elbows. Look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides) and upper arms. 
  • Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Also look around your genital area and between your buttocks. 
  • Sit and closely examine your feet, including your toenails, your soles and the spaces between your toes.
By checking your skin regularly, you will learn what is normal for you. It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If your doctor has taken photos of your skin, you can compare your skin to the photos to help check for changes. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor.

Source: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health