Skin Cancer Prevention
Taking steps to prevent skin cancer means avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled so that the chances of developing the disease decrease. Suggestions for how to do this include avoiding exposure to mid-day sun, wearing long pants and shirts outside, and applying sunscreen. Perhaps the most important prevention tip is to avoid exposure to UV radiation.
Doctors cannot always explain why one person will get skin cancer and another person will not. However, skin cancer research scientists have studied general patterns of skin cancer in the population to learn what may increase a person's chances of developing it.
Anything that increases a person's chances of developing skin cancer is called a skin cancer risk factor; anything that decreases a person's chances is called a skin cancer protective factor. Preventing skin cancer means avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled so that the chances of developing skin cancer decreases.
Risk factors for nonmelanoma skin cancer include:
- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation
- Fair complexion (blond or red hair, fair skin, green or blue eyes, history of freckling)
- Scars or burns on the skin
- Infection with certain human papillomaviruses
- Exposure to arsenic
- Chronic skin inflammation or skin ulcers
- Radiation therapy
- Medical conditions or drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants)
- Personal history of one or more skin cancers
- Family history of skin cancer
- Actinic keratosis
- Bowen's disease
- Diseases that make the skin sensitive to the sun, such as xeroderma pigmentosum, albinism, and basal cell nevus syndrome.
(Click Causes of Skin Cancer to read more about skin cancer risk factors.)