Shining Light on Skin Cancer

As Houston weather warms up, you may be spending more time outdoors. More time outdoors means more time in the sun, and potentially more exposure to the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays.

Each year in the United States, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Skin cancer develops when skin cells, damaged by UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, grow uncontrollably and form malignant tumors. Fortunately, most skin cancers are curable when diagnosed and treated early.

While skin cancer is a highly prevalent disease, it is also highly preventable. There are many ways to lower your risk of skin cancer and protect yourself from the dangers of unprotected sun and indoor UV exposure. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. In fact, a tan is your skin’s visible response to DNA damage from UV light, which can accelerate skin aging and lead to skin cancer.

When spending time outdoors, decrease the risk of sunburn by wearing:

  • Broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
  • Protective clothing
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses

Indoor tanning is not safe from harmful UV radiation either. It is good practice to avoid tanning booths, which can emit UV radiation 10 to 15 times higher than the sun at its peak intensity.

Several other factors may increase your risk of developing skin cancer, such as having:

  • Fair skin or light-colored eyes and hair
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Numerous or atypical moles
  • A weakened immune system
  • Previous skin cancer

As a result of skin cancer’s prevalence, it’s crucial to spread awareness, encourage sun-safe practices, and support screening initiatives, like completing skin and mole exams at home and annually in your dermatologist’s office. One out of five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70, but early detection can save lives. Stay vigilant about your skin health, know the warning signs, prioritize preventive measures, and talk to your doctor about changes in your skin, as well as your risk for skin cancer.

Published July 8, 2024

Author Ashley Ojeaga, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.D., Dermatology, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Berthelsen Main Campus