Skin Cancer Prevention
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2017. | Last updated: January 2021
While there is no perfect way to prevent all skin cancers, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. Oftentimes, many risk factors are uncontrollable, such as gender, family history, genetics, age, and race. However, some risks can be controlled or minimized, leading to better prevention, and a decrease in your personal risk.
How to prevent skin cancer
Avoid UV rays
This is often the first step many associate with skin cancer prevention and regarded as its most common cause. Avoiding ultraviolet (UV) rays1,2,3 can be accomplished in various, from avoiding direct sunlight to staying clear of tanning beds and other radiation sources. There are several common methods of avoiding UV rays.
- Seeking shade when outside
- Wearing sunscreen when outside that is at least 15 SPF and is broad-spectrum (meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays), and reapplying sunscreen all over your body every two hours or right after swimming or sweating
- Wearing lotion daily with sunscreen in it, even indoors or on non-sunny days
- Wearing sunglasses to protect the skin around your eyes and your eyes themselves
- Wearing hats and shirts (and other appropriate protective clothing) while outside
- Avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps
- Teaching children about the dangers of UV rays and sunburn, and keeping them out of the sun when possible
Check skin regularly
Perform self-examinations and see your dermatologist on a regular basis. Note any unusual spots, and take pictures if needed to track changes of worrying places. Specifically, watch for any abnormal moles, and track any growth or color changes that they may go through. Make sure to bring any issues like these to your doctor promptly.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
Not smoking, or quitting smoking, along with a healthy diet and exercise regimen can help keep your body in tip-top shape, and ready to fight any potential issues. Also, try to avoid chemicals like arsenic, and other harmful substances are known to increase the risk of cancer. Oftentimes, we may not know we’re being exposed to harmful substances, for example, if they are present in our water supply or in the air of our homes. Having your water or air quality tested could uncover potential issues you may be able to amend.
Keep your immune system strong
Avoiding risk factors for conditions that impact immune function, such as HIV, can lead to a healthier immune system that can better fight potential problems. Also, avoiding medications that deplete the immune system, or weaken its ability to fight can help decrease the risk of developing cancer. However, not all immune-suppressing medications are avoidable if you are battling a chronic condition or other illness. Checking in with your healthcare provider about all treatment options and their impact on your health can be essential in avoiding any medications you may not need that could eventually cause other issues.