How can I prevent skin cancer?

The key is to avoid being in the sun or using sunlamps. If you're going to be in the sun for any length of time, wear clothes made from tight-woven cloth so the sun's rays can't get through to your skin, and stay in the shade when you can. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, neck and ears.

Remember that clouds and water won't protect you--60% to 80% of the sun's rays can get through clouds and can reach swimmers at least one foot below the surface of the water. The sun's rays can also reflect off of water, snow and white sand.

 Tips on preventing skin cancer
  •  Avoid the sun, especially from 11AM until 3PM, when the sun's rays are the strongest.
  • Don't use tanning booths or sunlamps.
  • Wear protective clothing and hats.
  • Check your skin yourself every month for signs of skin cancer.
  • If you see an area on your skin that looks unusual, ask your family doctor about it.

Should I use sunscreen?

If you can't protect yourself by staying out of the sun or wearing the right kind of clothing, use sunscreen to help protect you. But don't think that you're completely safe from the sun just because you're wearing sunscreen.

How should sunscreen be used?

Use sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Put the sunscreen everywhere the sun's rays might touch you, including your ears, the back of your neck and bald areas of your scalp. Put more on every hour if you're sweating or swimming.

What's the best way to do a skin self-examination?

The best way is to use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror to check every inch of your skin.

1. First, you need to learn where your birthmarks, moles and blemishes are and what they usually look like. Check for anything new, such as a change in the size, texture or color of a mole, or a sore that doesn't heal.

2. Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at the left and right sides.

3. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your palms and forearms, including the undersides, and your upper arms.

4. Check the back and front of your legs.

5. Look between your buttocks and around your genital area.

6. Sit and closely examine your feet, including the bottoms of your feet and the spaces between your toes.

7. Look at your face, neck and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move hair so that you can see better.

By checking yourself regularly, you'll get familiar with what's normal for you. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor. The earlier skin cancer is found, the better.