Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention

Cheerful young woman spraying sunscreen protection while kayaking on the river with her boyfriend outdoors

Date: July 13, 2022
Categories: Health Focused

Catherine Hill, BS, CHES

Health Educator

Community Outreach & Prevention

It’s summertime, and that means more fun in the sun! This is a time when many of us enjoy being outdoors in the sunshine, which makes this the perfect opportunity to raise awareness around skin cancer and to encourage Americans to practice sun-safe behaviors.

Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of the skin’s cells.  Cancerous cells normally develop on areas of the skin which have had a great deal of sun exposure, such as the head, hands, neck and forearms. People of all races, colors, and ages can be affected by skin cancer; however, those with fair skin are at a greater risk because they burn more easily. 

Common Types of Skin Cancer

  • Actinic Keratoses
    • Dry, scaly patch
    • Precancerous growth that can progress to Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma
    • Most common type of skin cancer
    • Looks like a flesh-colored bump or pink patch of skin
    • Can invade the surrounding tissue and grow into the bone and nerves
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma
    • Often looks like a red bump, scaly patch or sore
    • Can grow deep in the skin and spread to other areas of the body
  • Melanoma
    • Deadliest form of skin cancer
    • Frequently develops in a mole or as a new dark spot on the skin


Protect yourself from sun damage and reduce your risk of skin cancer by following these tips offered by the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Apply Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen which is water-resistant and has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to exposed skin whenever out in the sun.  Broad-Spectrum will provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays.  Use an amount of sunscreen that is equal to the size of your palm and rub it in thoroughly.  Do not forget your feet, neck, ears and top of your head.  Re-apply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. 
  • Wear protective clothing like a long-sleeved shirt, pants, sunglasses or wide-brimmed hat. 
  • Seek Shade during 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the sun and can increase the risk of getting sunburnt.
  • Get Vitamin D safely through a healthy diet instead of sunlight. 
  • Avoid tanning beds.  Just like the sun, UV rays from tanning beds can lead to skin cancer.  Use a self-tanning lotion as a safe alternative to achieve a healthy glow.   
  • Perform regular skin self-exams to detect skin cancer early and see a dermatologist if you notice any new or suspicious spots. Be sure to check everywhere – from your scalp to the bottoms of your feet.


Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S – The American Academy of Dermatology reports 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime – but it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. This is why self-examination is so important.  Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the skin so be sure to check the back and front of your body, as well as both sides.  If necessary, ask someone for help when checking your skin. 

When checking for melanoma, remember the ABCDE’s:

Asymmetry – One half unlike the other half

Border – Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border

Color – Varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue

Diameter – White melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed

Evolving – A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color

Pay close attention to your nails too! A brown or black streak under the nail can be a sign of skin cancer.

If you find a spot on your skin that is different from others, changing, growing or bleeding, make an appointment with a dermatologist immediately.