The best news about melanoma is that many cases of skin cancer can be prevented by following these precautions:

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day. For many people in North America, the sun's rays are strongest between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even in winter or when the sky is cloudy.

    You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays. Avoiding the sun at its strongest helps you avoid the sunburns and suntans that cause skin damage and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Sun exposure accumulated over time also may cause skin cancer.

  • Wear sunscreen year-round. Sunscreens don't filter out all harmful UV radiation, especially the radiation that can lead to melanoma. But they play a major role in an overall sun protection program.

    Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

  • Wear protective clothing. Sunscreens don't provide complete protection from UV rays. So cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does.

    Some companies also sell photoprotective clothing. A dermatologist can recommend an appropriate brand.

    Don't forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types of UV radiation — UVA and UVB rays.

  • Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
  • Become familiar with your skin so you'll notice changes. Examine your skin regularly for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks.

    With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks.

Apr. 15, 2014