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Updated: Feb 7, 2022

woman applying sunscreen and wearing a floppy hat
Cover up, wear sunglasses, and don't forget the sunscreen!

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and as a PA-C at the Idaho Skin Institute, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t educate people on skin cancer.

I want to let you know how to prevent skin cancer, how to check yourself for signs of it, and what to do if you get it. First, let me make you aware of a few facts.

  • Did you know, for instance, that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined?

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

  • About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun.

  • On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.

It’s plain to see that exposure to the sun can be a huge problem, especially if you’re not taking steps to protect yourself. To help prevent becoming a statistic, here are some simple steps you can take to prevent skin cancer from ever becoming a problem.



The best way to ensure you’re safe from the ravages of skin cancer is to avoid the sun, especially between the hours of 10AM and 4PM. This is unrealistic for most people, so instead I recommend you follow the old adage “slip, slap, slop.” This means slip on a long-sleeved shirt, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and slop on some sunscreen. I’ll add one more: slide on a pair of UV-protecting sunglasses that wrap around your eyes when going out in the sun.

Here are some sunscreen tips:

  • Make sunscreen application (at least SPF 15) a part of your daily skincare routine. Keep it with you and reapply it whenever you go outside.

  • Your sunscreen should contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which block UVA and UVB rays. Some other ingredients (specifically avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene) simply absorb the UV rays then break down in the blood, and science is still out on whether these chemicals are safe in the long run.

  • For your face, I personally use and recommend Zo Skin Health’s Oclipse Smart Tone SPF 50 as it has a 12-hour time-release antioxidant complex that guards against sun damage. You can get it from Amazon at the link to the right.

  • For your body, I recommend La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk. It feels like a lightweight moisturizer and blends in like a dream, leaving behind a subtle, dewy glow.

  • You can get it from Amazon at the link on the right.

Finally, do what you can to never get sunburned… your risk of developing skin cancer doubles after five sunburns. And NEVER use UV tanning beds! They are so dangerous they are listed by the FDA as a known carcinogen.

Check yourself in the mirror once a month.



At least once a month, you should check yourself in the mirror for signs of skin cancer. Check everywhere! The ears and the feet are especially susceptible, as they are most often missed when applying sunscreen. If you find a worrisome mole, birthmark, or lesion, use the ABCDE method to evaluate if it is indeed worth getting checked out:


Is the shape round? Or does one part of a mole or birthmark not match the other? If so, get it checked out by a professional.


Are the edges irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred? Get it checked.


What color is it? If the color is not the same all over and includes shades of brown or black, or has patches of pink, red, white, or blue, get it checked.


Is the spot is larger than ¼ inch across (about the size of a Tic Tac)? Although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this, anything larger should get checked.


Is the mole is changing in size, shape, or color? Get it checked.

Here are some photos to help you identify any issues. If you notice an abnormal mole or birthmark or anything else of concern, get it checked by a dermatologist or healthcare professional immediately.



If you do notice an abnormal mole or birthmark or anything else of concern, get it checked by a dermatologist or healthcare professional immediately. Although most are usually fine, you shouldn’t take them lightly. Skin cancer is so dangerous specifically because most people don’t notice they have it until it’s spread.

Your family doctor can take a look, and may refer you to a dermatologist; if he or she doesn’t and you would prefer a second opinion, you can ask for a referral. Call or come into our office to schedule your skin evaluation, The Skin Clinic and Aesthetics.

That’s it! Take care of your skin, especially as the hot summer sun is right around the corner. If you have any questions about this article or anything else, feel free to get in touch!

Woman on a beach wearing a floppy hat
With a few simple precautions you can enjoy your time in the sun!

Derm Diva Pro is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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