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If you'd like to schedule an appointment for a second opinion, call 434.924.9333.

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Home > Patient Care > Health & Prevention > Protect Your Skin

Protect Your Skin

The Facts on Sun and Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. More than 1 million people get it each year. When found early, most people with skin cancer can be cured.

By far, the sun causes most skin cancers. However, other things can also cause it:

  • Repeated exposure to x-rays.
  • Contact with chemicals like coal tar or arsenic.

How can you prevent skin cancer?

  • The best way is to avoid the sun. Try to stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when its rays are strongest.
  • Cover up. When you are out in the sun, wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants.  Don't forget to keep your neck covered.
  • Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. Sunscreen keeps out the harmful rays of the sun. Apply it at least 15-30 minutes before going in the sun. Put on more after swimming or sweating.

And remember these points to avoid skin cancer:

  • Beware of cloudy days. You can still get burned then.
  • The sun's rays can reach through three feet of water. So even though you may feel cool in the water, the sun can still burn you.
  • Watch out for the sun in wintertime. Snow reflects sunlight and that can burn you, too.
  • Don't use sunlamps, tanning parlors, or tanning pills. They can be just as harmful to your body as the sun.

How can you tell if you have skin cancer?

You can't tell for sure. Only your doctor can. See your doctor if:

  • A mole changes size, shape, or color.
  • There is an unusual growth on your skin.
  • Your skin changes color in certain spots.
  • A sore won't heal.

Look at your skin. Check moles, spots and birthmarks monthly. Getting too much sun causes other skin problems, such as red, scaly patches. These can also become cancer. See your doctor for this condition, too.

Who is likely to get skin cancer?

People who sunburn easily, have fair skin, or have red or blond hair get skin cancer most often. It is less common in people with black or deep brown skin. However, anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun can get skin cancer.

Ninety percent of skin cancers occur on the parts of the body not usually covered with clothing - the face, hands, forearms, and ears. People trying to get tans also get skin cancer on the shoulders, back, chest, or legs.

Remember, protect yourself from the sun, and you'll protect yourself from skin cancer.

Get Screened! UVA Cancer Center offers periodic screenings for skin cancer. Learn more about skin cancer screenings.