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Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin Cancer Prevention

Examine Your Skin

There are five keys of skin cancer symptoms (called the ABCDE’s) that can help you recognize skin cancer early. Dermatologists recommend that you perform regular head-to-toe checks keeping in mind these five ABCDE’s of skin tumors:

  • A (Asymmetry): If you draw a line through the middle of a mole or lesion on your skin and the two halves are not symmetrical this is a sign that the tumor may be malignant.
  • B (Border): Unlike non-malignant tumors which will typically have a smooth border, the border of an early melanoma will generally be jagged or uneven.
  • C (Color): Melanomas are known for being a variety of colors; particularly shades of black, brown, and tan. They may also be blue, red and other colors. A tumor or lesion of only one color is a good sign.
  • D (Diameter): Generally speaking, non-malignant skin cancers are smaller than ¼ inch in diameter, but melanomas are usually larger than ¼ inch in diameter. Monitor anything that is becoming larger than ¼ inch in diameter.
  • E (Evolving): If a tumor or lesion changes in color, elevation, size, or shape and if any new symptom arises such as bleeding, crusting, or itching, etc., then it could be dangerous. See your dermatologist or doctor immediately.

Not all cancers fit the ABCDE’s profiling. With any skin condition it is important to take note of any new skin spots or growths and consult with your doctor for any moles, freckles, or spots that seem different from the others.

Protect Your Skin

Ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Follow these recommendations to help protect yourself:

  • Shade. You can reduce the risk of skin cancer by shading yourself as much as possible such as staying under a tree, tent, umbrella, or other structure.
  • Clothing. Use clothing to cover your head, face, and arms and legs. Clothes made from a tightly woven fabric offer the better protection than a loosely woven fabric. Similarly, a wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well. Clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
  • Hats, Caps, and Headwear. For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. If you wear a golf or baseball-style cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing headwear or a bandana that covers those areas.
  • Sunglasses. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
  • Sunscreen. Apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Sunscreen only lasts for two hours so always plan to use sunscreen in combination with other options to prevent UV damage.

About Skin Cancer

(Sources: The Skin Cancer Foundation)

UV Radiation and Skin Cancer

UV radiation damages the skin and produces genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer. As cited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization, UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen. UV radiation is the main cause of non melanoma skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. These cancers strike more than a million people each year. UV radiation also plays a key role in melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which kills more than 8,000 Americans each year.


UV radiation has wavelengths shorter than visible light which makes it invisible to the naked eye. UV wavelengths are classified as UVA, UVB, or UVC. UVA is the longest wavelength of the three at 320-400 nanometers, UVB ranges from 290-320 nanometers, and UVC has a shorter wavelength and is absorbed by the ozone layer. UVA and UVB reach the earth and have harmful effects such as premature skin aging, eye damage (including cataracts), skin cancers, and suppression of the immune system which reduces your body's ability to fight off these and other maladies.

Skin Types and At Risk Groups

Your skin type is one of the main factors in your risk for skin cancer. There are six skin types that range from light to dark. Individuals with light skin types face the highest risk of developing skin cancer. That is because those with less pigmentation have less natural protection from the sun. Light-skinned people should be highly cautious of the sun and have regular examinations by a doctor. While darker skin types are at the lowest risk, they can still get skin cancer and should be cautious of over exposure to the sun as well.

Golf: You've Got Skin in the Game

Golfers beware. You are at high risk of skin cancer. When you play a round of golf, your skin can be exposed to the sun for five hours or more. As sunscreen is good for a maximum of two hours, golfers must take additional skin care measures. Golfers should wear a wide-brim hat with three inches of brim or more all the way around shading your face, neck, ears, and shoulder tops. Golfers should cover your arms by wearing Arm Sleeves with UPF 50+ sun protection. And golfers should use UV protective sunglasses to protect your eyes, eyelids, and surrounding soft-skin areas. Golfers should never allow any area of your body's skin to become sun burned.

The Sun: A Construction Site Hazard for Outdoor Workers

Construction workers who work in the sun are at a high risk for skin cancer. The Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) has worked to educate labor union members on the dangers of skin cancers citing that outdoor construction workers are twice as likely to experience skin cancer as indoor workers. Outdoor construction workers and outdoor laborers must protect their arms and necks to prevent skin damage from over exposure to the sun.

Men and Skin Cancer: Solving the Knowledge Gap

Men take poorer care of their skin than women do especially when it comes to skin cancer prevention and early detection. Men have more unprotected sun exposure than women between work and play and men rarely examine or treat their skin. Consequently, men develop more skin cancers. The majority of people who get skin cancer are men over the age of 50 and they discover such growths too late when they are harder to treat. Men that spend time in the sun should regularly see a dermatologist and keep up with men's health issues related to sun exposure.

What You Need to Know About Clothing

Clothing is the first line of defense against the sun as it absorbs and blocks much of its radiation. As part of a complete sun protection regimen, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends covering up with clothing, including pants, shirts, sleeves, broad-brimmed hats, neck and head wear, and UV-blocking sunglasses. The more skin you cover, the better.

What is Sun Safe Clothing

You can have clothing over every square inch of your body, but if the sun goes right through it, it’s not much use. The tighter the knit or weave, the smaller the holes and the less the sun can get through. Twill, used to make tweeds or denim, is an example of a tightly woven fabric that offers good skin protection. Open weave fabrics, on the other hand, provide much less protection. Though loosely evaluating fabric content, color, weight and weave by eye are helpful at sizing up UV protection, it is difficult to pinpoint just how protective a piece of clothing is simply by looking at it. One solution is to choose garments with UPF labels. UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor, which quantifies how effectively a piece of clothing shields against the sun. Look for clothing with a UPF of at least 30 so that you know you’re getting effective sun protection.

Clothing: Our First Line of Defense

Clothing is the most effective form of sun protection. You probably already have clothes that offer excellent UV protection. When choosing the ideal attire for sun safety, consider the following factors - tightness of weave, type of fiber, thickness of fabric, color, and UPF labeling. While clothes made of UV-screening fabrics go a long way towards protecting your skin, the face and neck receive the most sun exposure and are particularly susceptible to skin cancer. Be sure to cover up with brimmed hats and neck and headwear.

Sun Safety in Cars

A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that skin cancers occur more often on the left or drivers' side of the body. Drivers' heads and necks receive the most exposure. If you have a sunroof or a convertible top, you should wear a wide-brimmed hat. The second most common area for skin cancers was the arm. If you prop your elbow up on the open window while you drive, make sure it is covered by wearing a long sleeved shirt or an arm sleeve. Consider keeping sun safe items in your car such as a wide-brimmed hat, arm sleeves, and UV-blocking sunglasses for both you and your front seat passenger. Stay safe from the sun as you drive your car.

Sun Hazards in Your Car

Millions of people receive a large portion of their sun exposure when they don’t even realize it, when they are driving their cars. Though the front windshield of your car is treated to block the rays of the sun, your side windows and rear window are not. Though your car's air condition may cool you and keep you comfortable, you are still exposed to the sun. When driving for extended periods of time, cover up and stay safe.

Get in on the Trend

Protecting yourself from the sun is not only the healthy thing to do, it can also be the fashionable and trendy thing to do. Increasingly, people are covering up and enjoying the functional and fashionable options that they now have. Being sun safe doesn't have to be boring or bothersome. Fashionable hats, arm sleeves, neck and headwear enable you to continue to wear your existing clothing while adding new levels of sun safety, function and fashion to your wardrobe.

Learn More About Skin Cancer

Learn more about skin cancer and protecting your skin from the Skin Cancer Foundation, an international organization devoted to education, prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the world. We encourage you to visit some of the valuable articles that can be found on their website.