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Skin Cancer Screenings

Woman getting a skin cancer screening

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, but the good news is that when it’s found and treated early, it can be cured. Skin cancer screenings can help identify cancer early on, when treatment is most effective. These type of screenings can be done at your physician’s office, at a dermatology offce, at some annual Focus on Health sites or at community outreach events.

Think you’re not at risk for skin cancer? Think again. Sunburn increases risk. Check out these myths about sun exposure.

Myth #1: I can't get sunburned on a cloudy day.

Reality: if you don’t wear sunscreen or clothing for protection, you’ll burn just as much on an overcast day as on a bright, sunny day.

Myth #2: Using a tanning bed is safer than getting a tan in natural sunlight.
Reality: tanning beds expose your skin to damaging ultraviolet light. Don’t use them! Research has shown that tanning bed use before the age of 35 increases a person’s risk for melanoma by 75 percent.
Myth #3: Only people over age 50 have to worry about skin cancer.
Reality: more young people are being diagnosed with skin cancer than ever before. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is the most common form of cancer for people 25-29 and the second most common in people 15-25.
Myth #4: Skin cancer isn't very common.
Reality: according to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is one of the most common — and preventable — types of cancer, and the incidence of it is on the rise.
Myth #5: Skin cancer isn't fatal, so I'll just have surgery to remove any trouble spots.
Reality: melanoma can definitely be fatal if not treated early. The American Cancer Society predicts that more than 76,600 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year, and sadly, for more than 9,000 of those people, melanoma will be fatal.

Protect yourself

Since 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, you can protect yourself by using sunscreen. It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you’re going to be out in the sun, wear sunscreen.

Is it safe for newborns to be in the sun?
No. Keep newborns out of the sun. Protect children ages 6 months and older with sunscreen.
What should I look for when purchasing sunscreen?

Sunscreen comes in more user-friendly forms than ever before – cream, spray, lotion, wipes – and in handy take-along containers. Whatever form you choose, make sure to use sunscreen that offers:

  • Broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB protection)
  • SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher
  • SPF of 30 or higher if you burn easily or have fair skin and naturally blonde or red hair. Some sunscreens have an SPF of 50 or greater, but there isn’t any proof that they’re more effective.
  • Water-resistance, if you plan to be in the water. The label will show that the product provides 40 or 80 minutes’ protection. You should re-apply after coming out of the water.
When should I apply sunscreen?
Sunscreen is most effective when you apply an even layer over all exposed skin 15-30 minutes before you’ll be out in the sun. Be sure to re-apply every two hours – more often if you get wet or sweat a lot.
Where should I apply sunscreen?
Keep it away from your eyes, but apply it anywhere your skin is exposed, paying careful attention to the tops and outside areas of your ears, back, chest, nose, hands and feet.

What other things can I do to protect myself from the sun?