Melanoma Monday: Ways To Prevent Skin Cancer

Melanoma Monday: Ways To Prevent Skin Cancer

April 11, 2024

Skin cancer is a leading form of cancer in the U.S. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point. Among the various types of skin cancer, melanoma is the deadliest. 

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates from melanocytes, the skin cells that produce pigment. The American Cancer Society reports melanoma often develops on areas of the skin with past sun damage, such as the back, chest, neck, ears and face. But it can also occur in areas with less sun exposure, such as the soles of the feet, palms and nails. It is more deadly than other forms of skin cancer in part because of how quickly it spreads.

Because of the prevalence of melanoma, the first Monday in May (aka “Melanoma Monday”) has been dedicated to preventing and detecting this disease. This Melanoma Monday, remember the following tips for preventing melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.

Tips to prevent skin cancer

Wear sunscreen. Regardless of your skin tone, wear sunscreen whenever your skin is exposed to the sun. Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply it liberally to all exposed areas of your skin. Reapply it every two hours and after being in the water or sweating.

Avoid prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Staying out of the sun and tanning beds is the best and simplest way to protect your skin.

Choose protective clothing. If you plan to be in the sun, wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a hat and sunglasses. Make sure your sunglasses offer broad-spectrum UV protection.

Perform regular self-exams. According to the AAD, around 50% of melanoma cases are self-detected. When conducting a self-exam, use a full-length mirror to check your body and a handheld mirror to check your neck and scalp. (See the AAD’s how-to on performing a self-exam.)

Keep an eye on moles. If you have a mole, the AAD says to remember the ABCDE rule. Look for:

  • Asymmetry. One side of the spot is different from the other.
  • Border. The outline of the spot is irregular or wavy, or lacks definition.
  • Color. The spot is different colors, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or parts of the spot are white, red or blue.
  • Diameter. The spot is larger than 6 millimeters, or the size of a pea. (However, melanomas can be diagnosed at smaller sizes.)
  • Evolving. The shape, color or size of the spot is changing.

No one is immune to skin cancer

Sun protection isn’t just for those with light skin. People of all races can get skin cancer. In fact, the AAD says patients with darker skin are more likely to die from melanoma than white patients. This may be because they are often diagnosed at more advanced stages.

Regardless of your skin tone, get serious about your skin care. No amount of fun in the sun is worth developing skin cancer.