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21 May 2024

3 Things You Need to Know About Skin Cancer and Melanoma This Summer

By Michelle Brown, VP, INT Oncology
National Caregivers Day

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetimes.¹ The deadliest form of skin cancer—melanoma—is much less common, but still leads to approximately 300,000 new cases annually.²

Most skin cancers and melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps.³ As we approach the summer months in the northern hemisphere, you’ll probably spend more time in the sun, whether at the pool, by the beach or in the park. That’s why, this Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we’re highlighting the three things you need to know to help protect yourself and your loved ones.

1. Know your risk factors—but remember anyone can get melanoma or skin cancer

While anyone can get skin cancer, melanoma included, certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing this disease. For example, you’re at a greater risk of developing skin cancer if you have a lighter natural skin color, skin that tends to burn, freckle or become painful in the sun, have blue or green eyes, or blonde or red hair. A family history of skin cancer also increases your likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease. In addition, skin cancer is more prevalent among men and older adults.

Beyond physical and genetic characteristics, the biggest risk factor for melanoma and skin cancer is sun exposure. If you have a history of intense sunburns, live close to the equator or in high altitudes where UV exposure is higher, or have used tanning beds before, you are at an increased risk of developing melanoma.

2. Reduce your risk

There are simple ways to reduce your risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer or melanoma. Most critically: avoid UV light, whether from tanning beds or the sun during peak hours.

Wear hats and other protective clothing to shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays, including sunglasses to protect your eyes. And of course, wear sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, it’s critical to protect your skin by applying sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30.

3. Monitor your skin and seek treatment if you notice warning signs

Melanoma is easier to treat the earlier it’s diagnosed. That’s why everyone, but especially people with higher risk factors, should make sure to monitor for skin cancer by performing regular skin self-examinations. With the help of a partner or a mirror, check yourself for potential signs of skin cancer, including growing or expanding spots and bumps on the skin as well as new or changing moles or other skin features. It’s important to be especially mindful when examining areas with the highest sun exposure, such as the face, neck, and arms, as skin cancers tend to be more common in these parts of the body.

If you see a new growth, visit your dermatologist as soon as possible! Your doctor will likely ask you about when the changes in your skin first appeared and look for other unusual changes on your skin that you may have missed. If there’s enough cause for concern, your doctor may run other tests, or perform a biopsy, to check for cancer growth.¹⁰

After many of us have been cooped up for the winter, we all deserve to have some fun in the sun this summer. Be sure to soak up all the season has to offer safely, taking some extra precautions to help protect your skin.