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According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, nearly one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they turn 70—making it the most common type of cancer in the United States.

Expand your skin cancer knowledge and the steps you can take to protect yourself.


Types of Skin Cancer

Skin is your body’s largest organ. It has two main layers: the upper layer or epidermis and the lower layer or dermis. Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells typically caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. You can be exposed to UV rays from the sun, sunlamps or tanning beds.

There are three main forms of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell cancer affects the bottom layer of your epidermis with skin cells routinely exposed to direct sunlight or other UV rays. It is the most common type of skin cancer.
  • Melanoma affects the cells that produce the pigment that determines the color of your skin, called melanin. It is the most serious form of skin cancer because it tends to grow quickly and spread to other areas of your body.
  • Squamous cell cancer affects the top layer of your skin. It typically appears on the arms, hands, neck, ears or face.


Remember Your ABCs

Always have your physician check any changes in your skin, such as new growths, changes to old growths or sores that won’t heal. Knowing what to look for is as easy as reciting your ABCs—especially when identifying melanoma.

  • Asymmetrical. A spot or mole that has an irregular shape with two parts that look different from each other.
  • Border. The area has jagged or irregular edges.
  • Color. Uneven or splotchy colored area or mole.
  • Diameter. Larger than the size of a pea.
  • Evolving. A spot or mole that continues to change in size or appearance over a few weeks or months.


Who’s at Risk?

Anyone who’s exposed to UV rays can get skin cancer. But some factors increase your risk, including:

  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Being older than 50
  • Spending time in the sun
  • Sunburn
  • Tanning, either in a tanning bed or outdoors


Preventing Skin Cancer

Protecting yourself from exposure to UV rays also protects you from skin cancer. Get started with these tips.

  • According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied every day.
  • Choose clothes that cover your legs and arms.
  • Seek out shady areas when you’re outdoors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, ears, head and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays.


Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you. View skin cancer services.

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