Protect Your Skin: Ways to Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer

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Everyone worries about getting cancer, but the most common form of the disease is also the one that can be prevented — skin cancer. Twenty percent of Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, so it's important to understand this disease and how you can both avoid it or deal with if when it strikes.

Avoid Tanning and Tanning Beds

You may love the look of sun-kissed skin, but tanning is a bad idea. There is no such thing as a safe amount of tanning even if you don't burn. Ultraviolet rays have to damage your skin before you can even get a tan. That means even a slight darkening of skin color is a sign of damage. Getting a sunburn is dangerous, but just because you take measures to prevent burning doesn't mean you are avoiding skin cancer. Going to a tanning bed so that you feel you have some control over the tanning process isn't wise either. Your body is exposed to ultraviolet rays, and this will actually alter your cellular DNA.

Use Sunscreen

You should use sunscreen anytime you are in the sun to protect your skin from the sun's rays. Consistent sunscreen use may lower your skin cancer risk. While everyone needs to use sunscreen, this is even more important for some people. Those who sunburn easily have a higher risk for skin cancer and which commonly develops on skin that’s exposed to the sun's rays. If you have fair skin or always burn when exposed to the sun, sunscreen use is essential. Remember to use sunscreen during all seasons. Summer is the obvious time to keep your skin covered in SPF protection, but moisturizers for your face often have sunscreen in them to shield your sensitive facial skin all year long.

Self-Examination

You need to see a dermatologist regularly, so signs of skin cancer are detected early. However, self-examinations are also important. Examining your entire body at least once a month gives you a better chance of finding changes in your skin that might signal skin cancer. If you live with a partner, make sure he or she examines the places you can't easily see. If you live alone, use mirrors to view the front and back of your body. Note any changes that have taken place in moles or any new sunspots that have appeared. Call your doctor if you have concerns.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer, but it can be avoided or caught early. Practice proper care in the sun, and make sure to call your doctor if you notice skin changes.

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