Cancer & Women

Skin Cancer & Women

Girl thinking

The best bet for preventing skin cancer is protecting yourself from the sun.

  • Avoid sunlight during the hours between 10 a.m.-2 p.m., when rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective hats and clothing.
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVB and UVA rays) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
  • Avoid tanning and sunlamps
  • Be sure to protect your children – most of our lifetime sun exposure comes before we reach adulthood!

You are at greater risk if you have:

  • Blond, red or light brown hair; blue, gray or green eyes
  • Fair complexion and/or freckles; skin that burns easily
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Several moles on the body, especially those that have been there since birth or those that are unusual
  • One or more large pigmented spots
  • Excessive sun exposure and repeated blistering sunburns before age 15

As part of a routine cancer-related checkup, your health care professional should check your skin carefully and discuss any concerns you may have. It’s also important to check your own skin, preferably once a month. Learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin so that you’ll notice any changes. Any trouble spots should be seen by a doctor.

For melanoma, the most serious form, the “ABCD” rule is an easy guide:

  • A is for ASYMMETRY: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for BORDER: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for COLOR: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.
  • D is for DIAMETER: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.

Other important signs of melanoma include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or the appearance of a new spot. Some melanomas do not fit the ABCD rule described above, so it is particularly important for you to notice changes in skin markings or new spots on your skin.

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