Protecting your skin and checking it for changes are keys to preventing melanoma or catching one in an early, treatable stage.
Avoid Exposure to the Sun
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays produced by the sun increases your risk of melanoma. Here’s how to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays: Avoid spending too much time in the sun.Avoid exposing your skin to the sun between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM standard time, or 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM daylight saving time.Protect your skin from the sun with clothing. Wear a shirt, sunglasses, and a hat with a broad brim.Use broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more on skin that will be exposed to the sun.Use a protective lip balm.Wear sunglasses with 99% or 100% UV absorption to protect your eyes.Don't use sun lamps or tanning booths.Get regular full-body skin exams by a dermatologist. The doctor will check for moles, freckles, and other growths.
Check Your Skin for Abnormal-looking Moles
Check your skin regularly and have someone help you check areas you can’t see, such as your back and buttocks, scalp, underneath the breasts of women, and the backs of the legs. If you notice a new, changing or an irregular-looking mole, show it to a doctor experienced in recognizing skin cancers, such as a dermatologist. This may include large, irregular shape with a border that is not smooth and even, more than one color, or irregular texture. Your doctor may monitor the mole or recommend removing it
If you have a condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome, you should have your dermatologist check your skin regularly for atypical moles.
Alberta Provincial Cutaneous Tumour Team. Prevention of skin cancer. Edmonton (Alberta): CancerControl Alberta; 2013 Feb. 27 p. (Clinical practice guideline; no. CU-014). Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48130#Section420. Accessed October 20, 2014.
Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003120-pdf.pdf. Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed April 8, 2013.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed October 20, 2014.
What is prevention? National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/skin-prevention-pdq. Updated February 15, 2013. Accessed April 9, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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