Skin Cancer Basics and Prevention
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. It is one of the most common forms of cancer. This cancer most often develops on skin that has been exposed to the sun. It usually appears on the scalp, neck, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and legs.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma. This skin cancer usually occurs on your neck or face. It may look like:
- A bump that is waxy
- A flat flesh-colored or brown lesion resembling a scar
- A sore that bleeds or scabs and returns
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This cancer usually occurs on your face, ears and hands. It may look like:
- A red nodule that is firm
- A lesion that is flat with a scaly surface
- Melanoma. This cancer can occur anywhere on your body. It may look like:
- A large spot that is brown and speckled
- A mole that has changed in color or size. It may bleed
- A small lesion with irregular border
- A lesion that burns or itches
- Dark lesions
Thankfully, there are ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Follow these tips to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays:
- Limit your time in the sun. Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Make sure you use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Broad-spectrum means the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Apply sunscreen every day, even if you’re not planning on being in the sun for a long time. Reapply sunscreen regularly if you’ll be outside for an extended period.
- Cover up with hats and protective sun clothing.
- Avoid being outside when the sun is the most intense. This is usually from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays.
- Avoid tanning booths.
To catch skin cancer early, when it is most treatable, it’s important to have regular skin exams. This includes checking for unusual growths. You can also look for changes in the shape, size or color of an existing spot of mole. You should get checked by a doctor once per year and self-check once per month.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about scheduling an annual skin exam or to discuss any concerns. If you don’t currently have a doctor, Gateway Health’s Find a Doctor tool can help members locate an in-network provider.