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Skin Cancer Prevention

The number one way to help prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun.

While a suntan looks healthy, it’s actually a sign of your skin in distress. A tan is the skin’s way of defending itself from the harmful effects of the sun. Along with a golden glow, the sun’s UV rays also cause skin cancer (and wrinkles, sagging and age spots). 

Your natural skin color is great the way it is! Check out this fun infographic.

Did you know?

  • A darker skin tone offers some protection from skin cancer, but does not prevent it.
  • You should examine your skin head-to-toe every month, and get it checked by a professional once a year.
  • Melanoma—the deadliest kind—is the third most common cancer in people ages 15 to 39.

  1. Find the Shade

    Protect yourself from the sunSeek out shade when the sun is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If there isn’t any shade – create it for your skin by wearing a hat and clothing that covers you. Your hat should have a brim that is 3-4 inches wide or wider all around, in order to protect your scalp, face, ears and neck.

    A baseball cap isn't going to do it!

    The tighter the weave on your clothing, the more sun it keeps out – if you can see through it, the sun's UV rays can shine through it.

    Myth: I have to get a tan to look good. Myth: Only old people get cancer. Myth: Tanning beds are a good way to get vitamin D. Get the truth about tanning. Your natural skin color is great the way it is!

    The Truth About Tanning

    Your natural skin color is great the way it is! Every time you tan, you increase your risk of melanoma.

    Myth: I have to get a tan to look good.
    Truth: You should know your skin will pay a price! Fine lines and wrinkles, cataracts, sagging skin, and brown spots.

    Myth: Only old people get cancer.
    Truth: Young women are getting skin cancer more often. The risk is real! Melanoma—the deadliest kind—is the third most common cancer in people from 15 to 39. You can get melanoma in your eyes.

    Myth: Having a good base tan will protect my skin from the sun.
    Truth: A tan is a sign of damaged skin.

    Myth: Tanning beds are a good way to get vitamin D.
    Truth: Tanning beds are risky, and most people get enough vitamin D from food and sunlight during daily activities.

    You can get more than a tan from a tanning bed! If the tanning bed isn’t clean, you could pick up a serious skin infection with symptoms like genital warts, skin rashes, skin warts, and flaky discolored patches on your skin.

     

  2. Sunscreen: Myths and Facts

    Wear sunscreen every day, and don't forget your lips! Use a broad spectrum sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 15 or higher to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. If you’re going to be outside in the sun for an extended time, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

    Apply two tablespoons (one ounce) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

    Myth: You don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days. Fact: 80 percent of the sun’s harmful rays come through the clouds! Wear sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen on exposed skin every day, and consider moisturizers or make-up that contain sunscreen. You’ll not only reduce your risk of skin cancer, you’ll help prevent premature wrinkles and age spots. 
    Myth: If you wear sunscreen while you’re out in the sun for long periods of time, your skin is protected from damage. Fact: Don't let sunscreen fool you into thinking that it's safe to be out in the sun for a long time! While you may not get sunburned, your skin is still being damaged by the sun. Sunscreens filter cancer-causing UV rays, but don’t block them all. 
    Myth: A base tan will help protect your skin from the sun. Fact: A base tan is not a safe tan, and will not prevent sunburn or future skin damage from UV rays.
  3. Indoor Tanning

    Using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get a tan can cause skin cancers including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), cataracts and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma). Indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. The more times a person spends tanning indoors, the higher the risk.

    Because overexposure to UV rays during childhood greatly increases the chances of getting skin cancer later in life, the State of Oregon bans indoor tanning for anyone under age 18.

    Myth: An indoor tan is safer than tanning in the sun.  Fact: Both are dangerous. Indoor tanning is designed to give you high levels of UV radiation in a short time. You can get a burn from tanning indoors. Even a tan indicates damage to your skin. 
    Myth: A base tan is a "safe tan". Fact: A base tan is not a safe tan. Any tan is the body’s response to injury from UV rays. A base tan does little to protect you from future damage to your skin caused by UV exposure. In fact, people who indoor tan are more likely to report getting sunburned.
    Myth: Indoor tanning is a good way to get Vitamin D. Fact: While everyone needs vitamin D, the safest way to get it based on what we currently know is through your food or a supplement – not a tanning bed or the sun.
     



     
  4. Sunglasses

    Mirrored sunglassesChoose wrap-around sunglasses with at least 99% UV absorption for the best protection for your eyes and the delicate skin around your eyes. Look for a label that says “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements”.

    If there is no label, don’t assume the sunglasses will give you any protection.

  5. Recognize the Signs

    Most people have moles, and almost all of them are harmless. A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised. It can be round or oval. They are usually smaller than the width of a pencil eraser.

    A mole can be present at birth, or it can appear during childhood or young adulthood. Get any new moles checked out. Moles usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some may even fade away. Any changes in a mole – such as in its size, shape, or color – may mean a melanoma is developing.

    See below for two ways to tell a normal mole from a mole that may be cancer.

    ABCDE Rule

    The ABCDE rule is one way to help recognize the typical signs of melanoma. Tell your doctor about spots with any of the following features:

    A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
    B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
    C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
    D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
    E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color. 

    Ugly Duckling Rule

    Melanomas look different than other moles. The “ugly duckling” rule can help you find them, especially when you have lots of moles or freckles. Usually, normal moles resemble each other, like siblings, while the potential melanoma looks or feels different than the others – the “ugly duckling”.

    Over time, an ugly duckling mole may change differently than your other moles.

    Get any “ugly duckling” moles checked by a specialist, such as a dermatologist, dermatology PA-C (certified physician assistant) or nurse practitioner.