Authored by Revere Health

How to Prevent Skin Cancer

May 11, 2017 | Cancer CenterDermatologyHematology-Oncology

The lifestyle choices we make affect our risk for many conditions, including skin cancer. While some factors, like genetics, are uncontrollable, there are several that you can take charge of.

The National Cancer institute divides cancer prevention into two areas: risk factors (anything that can increase your risk of cancer) and protective factors (anything that can decrease your risk of cancer). The goal is to avoid risk factors wherever possible and maximize protective factors.


Avoiding Risk Factors of Skin Cancer

Risk factors for both melanoma skin cancer and nonmelanoma skin cancer include smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise and significant exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Individual sensitivity to UV radiation can vary between people, and can have a big effect on risk levels.

Risk factors for nonmelanoma cancer, like basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, include:


  • Long-term exposure to natural or artificial sunlight (often from tanning beds)
  • A fair complexion, including skin that freckles or burns easily and doesn’t tan, light-colored eyes or light-colored hair (red or blonde)
  • Actinic keratosis: A scaly patch of skin that can lead to cancer
  • Previous radiation treatment
  • A weak immune system
  • Exposure to arsenic

Risk factors for melanoma cancer include:


  • Long-term sunlight exposure
  • Fair complexion
  • A history of blistering sunburns, especially in teen or childhood ages
  • Being white
  • A family history of unusual moles, or the presence of several small moles
  • A family or personal history of melanoma


Protective Factors

Avoiding certain risk factors is a great start for reducing your risk of skin cancer. In addition to avoiding risk factors, there are several protective steps you can take to prevent skin cancer:


  • Wear sunscreen: There isn’t yet enough concrete evidence that sunscreen directly reduces your risk of skin cancer—mostly due to a lack of research to prove its validity. However, doctors are in agreement that sunscreen can help decrease UV radiation on the skin and prevent other precursor conditions that can lead to skin cancer. For this reason, and because sunscreen has very limited possible side effects, it’s recommended that you use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher during periods of sun exposure. You should also reapply often during longer periods of exposure.
  • Avoid indoor and outdoor tanning: Avoid tanning beds and long periods of sun tanning.
  • Reduce your exposure to the sun: Limit sun exposure, especially during periods of the day when the sun is at its strongest. Avoid sun burns whenever possible.
  • Wear protective clothing, including hats, long sleeves and sunglasses.
  • Examine the skin regularly, and report any unusual lesions or moles to your doctor right away.
  • Have a yearly check done on the skin by a doctor, including checks for moles.


For more information on skin cancer or its prevention, speak to your doctor.

*Note: No two cancer cases are alike. None of the statements herein are designed to suggest a “one size fits all” approach, and each case will be evaluated individually.


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“Skin Cancer Prevention (PDQ)-Patient Version.” National Cancer Institute.

“Understanding Skin Cancer — Prevention.” WebMD.

“Prevention Guidelines.” Skin Cancer Foundation.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.