Certain factors may put you at higher risk for developing skin cancer. While some factors are under your control, others, are not. However, the more you know about skin cancer risks, the easier it can be to reduce your risk–or at least detect cancer early when it’s easier to treat.
It is important to remember that, at this time, risk factors don’t tell us everything. Having a risk factor (or factors) does not guarantee that you will get the disease. Likewise, some people who develop skin cancer may not have had any known risk factors at all. Regardless, to minimize your overall risk, it can be wise to err on the side of caution when it comes to your skin.
The primary risk factor for skin cancer–both melanoma and non-melanoma cancers–is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, including sunlight and tanning beds. The more UV radiation you are exposed to, the higher your chances for developing skin cancer. This includes those with both fair skin as well as darker skin – of any ethnicity. People who live in areas with year-round sunlight, or those who spend a great deal of time outdoors with unprotected skin, are also at a greater risk.
It is important to protect yourself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation all year round, not just during the summer. Even on cloudy or hazy days, UV rays can reach your skin. UV rays also reflect off surfaces, including water, cement, sand, and snow.
Being extra cautious between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. may also be beneficial, as these are the most hazardous hours of the day for UV exposure. In North America, UV rays from sunlight are the most intense during late spring and early summer.
Some easy options for protection against UV radiation include:
In addition to the prevention tips above, performing regular skin self-exams, or having a physician perform a professional skin exam annually, can be beneficial in the early detection of skin cancer.
If an area on your skin looks suspicious or concerns you, speak with your primary care doctor or dermatologist immediately. If your doctor suspects that you may have skin cancer, he or she will do further examination and testing. The sooner you have it checked out, the easier it can be to cure.