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Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. There are two basic types of skin cancer: non-melanomas and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are non-melanomas. Most develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. Depending on the type, they can be fast or slow growing, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body. These cancers can be cured if treated early. Melanoma is far more dangerous and begins in the cells that produce the skin coloring (or pigment) called melanin. Melanin helps protect deeper layers of skin from the sun’s harmful effects. Melanoma is often curable when treated in very early stages.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but it is more common in people who:

  • Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned
  • Have light-colored skin, hair and eyes
  • Have a family member with skin cancer
  • Are over age 50

The best ways to lower the risk of skin cancer:

  • Avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety
  • Avoid direct exposure between 10am and 4pm
  • Wear shirts, hats and sunglasses
  • Seek shaded areas
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of at least 30
  • Avoid UV light from tanning beds and sun lamps