May isn’t only the official start of summer. It’s also Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a healthcare campaign that seeks to spread awareness about the most common type of cancer in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime. As the days are getting warmer and we head outside to soak up some sun, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on your skin and protect yourself from UV exposure.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common and usually occur in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck and arms. They are typically treatable with early detection. Melanoma is less common but more dangerous; because it quickly spreads to other parts of the body, melanoma is responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths worldwide.

Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms

When detected early, many types of skin cancer can be easily treated and even cured. The key to early detection is to be aware of any changes to your skin. This includes any new moles or growths; changes in the size or shape of existing moles; or any unusual marks on your skin. Skin cancers can also appear as sores that don’t heal or as red, scaly patches. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to see a dermatologist as soon as possible.

It’s important to note that skin cancer can affect anyone regardless of skin color. No matter your skin tone, take preventative measures and check your skin regularly.

Preventing Skin Cancer

Prevention is key when it comes to skin cancer. Examine your skin frequently and use the following tips to minimize your risk:

  • Wear sunscreen every day. Even if it’s not sunny outside, UV rays can still penetrate your skin and cause damage. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply every two hours (less if you’re sweating or swimming).
  • Don’t spend extended hours in the sun, especially during the peak of day. If you’re going to be outside for a while, seek shade under a tree, umbrella, or other protective covering.
  • Wear loose-fitting, protecting clothing to shelter your skin from the sun. This includes long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat that shades your entire face.
  • Don’t spend time in tanning beds. Tanning beds use UV radiation to darken your skin, which can directly increase your risk of skin cancer. Remember – there’s no such thing as a safe tan!
  • Perform a monthly self-examination of your skin to look for any new or unusual growths or changes to existing moles.
  • Get regular check-ups with a dermatologist. A dermatologist can help detect skin cancer early and provide treatment options if needed.