Every year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer, making it the most common cancer in the United States. Skin cancer can occur in people of all ages and skin types, and it’s often preventable. That’s why May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to learn about the risks of skin cancer and take steps to protect your skin and your health.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow and divide in the skin. There are three main types of skin cancer:

  1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually appears as a small, shiny bump or a red patch on the skin.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It often appears as a firm, red bump or a scaly patch on the skin.
  3. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It can appear as a new mole or a change in an existing mole. Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. When your skin is exposed to UV radiation, it can damage the DNA in your skin cells, which can lead to cancer.

Other factors that can increase your risk of skin cancer include:

  • Having fair skin, hair, and eyes
  • Having a history of sunburns
  • Using tanning beds
  • Living in areas with high levels of UV radiation
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having a history of skin cancer in your family

How to Prevent Skin Cancer

The good news is that skin cancer is often preventable. Here are some ways to protect your skin from the sun:

  1. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats.
  2. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, and ears.
  3. Seek shade when the sun is at its strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  4. Avoid tanning beds.
  5. Check your skin regularly for changes, such as new moles, growths, or changes in the color, shape, or size of existing moles.

Early detection is key to treating skin cancer successfully. If you notice any changes in your skin, see a dermatologist right away.

Skin Cancer Prevention for Children

Children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of UV radiation because their skin is thinner and more sensitive than adults. Here are some tips to help protect your child’s skin:

  1. Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight.
  2. Dress your child in protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and hats.
  3. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your child’s skin. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if your child is swimming or sweating.
  4. Seek shade when the sun is at its strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  5. Teach your child to seek shade and wear protective clothing when playing outdoors.
  6. Be a good role model by practicing sun safety yourself.

Skin cancer is a serious and potentially deadly disease, but it’s also preventable. By taking steps to protect your skin and your health, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer and enjoy the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle.

Get a Screening

Why not get a check-up by a doctor to be sure that you’re in the clear? The earlier skin cancers are detected, the better the outcome. All of the doctors at Premier Family Medical are qualified to spot skin cancers and we also have a dermatologist on hand, Aaron Peterson. Pay us a visit and get a screening!