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Facts About Skin Cancer and Sun Safety


Bad News

1 in 5

Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.

Your risk of getting skin cancer is real. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

Good News

You can prevent and detect skin cancer. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

Know the facts

What is skin cancer:

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.


What is Skin Cancer?


It is the most common form of Cancer in the United States

Who’s at Risk

Anyone can get skin cancer. Even people who have skin of color get this cancer. Bob Marley, a musician from Jamaica, developed melanoma on his foot. Most people who get skin cancer, however, have lighter skin.

These risk factors significantly increase your risk of getting melanoma:

  • Sun exposure: Had bad sunburns, especially blistering sunburns.

  • Skin that burns or freckles rather than tans.

  • Fair skin. Although melanoma is more common in people who have light skin, people with skin of color also get melanoma.

  • 50 or more moles.Family history: Have any of your first-degree relatives (parent, sibling, or child) had melanoma?

Read More on Risk factors and causes:


Here’s how you can prevent skin cancer

Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma.1, 2

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. Broad-spectrum provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.  Re-apply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.

  • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase your chance of skin cancer.

  • Avoid tanning beds. Statistic Box about tanning beds.

  • Know your spots. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist.

1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2011.

2 Robinson, JK. Sun Exposure, Sun Protection and Vitamin D. JAMA 2005; 294: 1541-43.


ABCDE’s of Melanoma:

LSO Skin Cancer Detection Chart


One half unlike the other half.



Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.


Varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue.



While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller. See ruler below for a guide.


A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.


Skin Cancer Self Exam:

Checking your skin means taking note of all the spots on your body, from moles to freckles to age spots. Remember, some moles are black, red, or even blue. If you see any kind of change on one of your spots, you should have a dermatologist check it out.  Individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam at least annually and perform monthly self-exams for new and changing moles.


More on How to Check Your Spots:

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