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Prevent Skin Cancer

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Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays appears to be the most important environmental factor in developing skin cancer. This makes skin cancer a largely preventable disease, if you practice the behaviors listed below – and practice them consistently.  

UV rays from artificial sources of light, such as tanning beds and sun lamps are just as dangerous as those from the sun, and should also be avoided. Unfortunately, despite the fact that both tanning and burning can increase one's risk of skin cancer, many people still do not protect themselves from UV rays.

Although anyone can get skin cancer, individuals with certain risk factors are particularly at risk. Some risk factors for skin cancer are

  • Lighter natural skin color
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Personal history of skin cancer
  • Constant exposure to the sun through work and play
  • A history of sunburns early in life
  • Skin that burns, freckles, gets red easily, or becomes painful in the sun
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Blond or red hair
  • Certain types and a large number of moles

People can take many simple steps to plan ahead and protect themselves from the sun's harmful UV rays:

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Seek shade under a tree, beach umbrella, tent, or other shelter, especially if outdoor activities are unavoidable during midday when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage.

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Cover up with a shirt, beach cover-up, pants, or other clothing to protect exposed skin – the tighter the fabric weave, the better.

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Get a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, ears, scalp, and neck from UV rays.

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Use sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to protect eyes and prevent future cataracts.

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Rub on sunscreen to protect exposed skin – choose sunscreen and lip balm with at least SPF 15 and both UVA and UVB protection. Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after you or your children swim or exercise. This applies to "waterproof" and "water resistant" products as well.

Information taken from the "Choose Your Cover" campaign of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more information about skin cancer and its prevention, visit the CDC website.