Skin Cancer Overview

Preventing Skin Cancer

Even in its most serious form, namely melanoma, most types of skin cancers can be treated successfully if they're caught early. But there are also things one can do to minimize the risks of getting skin cancer.

Certain factors increase the risk of skin cancer. Fair skin puts you at greater risk. So does getting older. Exposure to chemicals such as arsenic, a metal found in well water but also used in pesticides, can increase risk too. Men are two to three times more likely than women to get skin cancer [source: American Cancer Society].

Despite the risks, there are things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of getting the disease. First and foremost, limiting exposure to strong ultraviolet rays is necessary. Keep your skin covered with clothing or sunblock when you're out in the sun. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and reapply every few hours. It should protect against both UVA and UVB rays [source: University of Maryland Medicine]. It's easy to forget about sun protection, especially in the fall or winter months. But time in the sun -- at any time of year -- should be limited during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Another method of prevention is being knowledgeable and proactive. Skin self-exams should be done monthly. Having one done by a dermatologist is equally important, at least once a year [source: National Cancer Institute]. Learning what to look out for, combined with routine exams, can go a long way in helping to avoid the disease.

While all the risk factors and preventive measures also apply to melanoma, there is another thing to consider in this particular type of skin cancer. Melanoma is more likely to occur in someone if a family member has had melanoma [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

It's important to remember that anyone can get skin cancer, even if you have darker skin or don't get sunburns [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Although recognizing and preventing skin cancer is the goal, it's also necessary to get proper tests done if you suspect you may have it. Read on to learn about skin cancer screening.