Skin Cancer Risk Factors | How to Prevent Them

Skin Cancer: How to Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Skin Cancers 

Understanding skin cancer risk factors and educating yourself about the effect of sun exposure on your skin is an essential part of protecting yourself against skin cancers.  Dr. Mona shares how to stay sun safe and reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.

How does the sun affect my skin? 

The sun emits ultraviolet radiation (UV Rays) that come through the atmosphere and penetrate our skin. UVC Rays are filtered out by the ozone for the most part, leaving UVB and UVA Rays.  UVB Rays are what we call “Burning” rays because they can lead to a sunburn.  They do not penetrate as deep into your skin as UVA Rays, which we call “Aging Rays. UVA Rays go deeper in the skin and can cause more free radical damage. Which can lead to both increased risk of skin cancers as well as more aging effects with loss of collagen, elastin, and brown spot formation. A tan is our skin’s way of trying to protect itself from the burning effects of the sun but at the cost of increased risk of both skin cancer and aging. Sunscreens can help to decrease the effect of harmful UV Rays.   

Why should you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen?

We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects your skin against both UVA and UVB rays since both rays can cause damage at different levels of your skin. Dr. Mona suggests choosing a mineral sunscreen that contains Zinc Oxide because it protects against the full UV spectrum. Mineral sunscreens, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, are what we call physical blocks because they physically block the UV Rays and have the added benefit of being well tolerated by all skin types.  If you want a broad-spectrum chemical sunscreen look for ones that include Avobenzone, since this covers into the UVA spectrum. Chemical sunscreens chemically alter UV rays once they get to the skin. 

Why is SPF so important?

SPF stands for sun protection factor, which is the measurement of how well sunscreen protects your skin against UVB, NOT UVA, Rays. Using a broadband sunscreen with an SPF that is at least over 30 or 40, and reapplying it every two hours, will ensure full coverage. While products with high SPFs of 90 or 100 may seem helpful, they do not provide a significant increase in protection. SPF of 30 allows 3% of UV Rays to penetrate, therefore protecting you against 97% of the sun’s rays while an SPF of 50 allows only 2% of the sun’s rays to penetrate, giving you protection against 98% of the sun’s rays and an SPF 100 protects you against 99% of the sun’s rays before you get sunburned. Although SPF matters, having a broad spectrum sunscreen that you are willing to wear and reapply every 2 hours is more important than the SPF number. 

 Enhanced Skin Cancer Protection

Though sunscreen is the best way to protect yourself against the sun, there are other ways to get extra protection. Try limiting your exposure to the sun between 10 am to 2 pm, since this is when the sun is at its strongest. Wearing hats and /or protective clothing can also provide you with some protection. For example, you can try wearing a broad-brimmed hat. Visors and baseball hats protect your face front but not the sides, ears, or back of your neck. We suggest choosing a broad-brimmed hat for the best full-face protection to get fuller coverage. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C are great at helping to decrease free radical damage for the rays that penetrate your skin and get passed your sunscreen. 

 Are you checking your skin monthly? 

First, make sure that you are scheduling your yearly skin exams. In addition to your in-office skin exams, we encourage you to get to know your skin and keep an eye out for new growths and suspicious moles. Point out new red bumps, scaling patches, and any funny-looking mole to your provider. When looking at a mole, consider the ABCDEs. This acronym is used to identify suspicious moles and potential melanomas. Remember, with early detection comes a better chance to treat and cure skin cancer.  


(A) Asymmetry: Moles should be symmetrical, not asymmetric.

(B) Border: Moles should be round or oval-shaped.

(C) Color: The color of a mole should be uniform, not darker or different colors.

(D) Diameter or Different: A mole should not be bigger than a pencil eraser or look different from your other moles.

(E) Evolving: The mole should not be evolving or changing.



It’s not too late to schedule your yearly skin exam! To learn more, schedule an appointment online or give us a call at 513.984.4800.

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