Skin cancer prevention: Stay safe in the summer sun

May 25, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

The weather is warming up, which means you’ll likely be spending time outdoors over the next few months.

While enjoying the summer sunshine, make sure you stay safe and take steps to protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet light.

“The sun — or ultraviolet light from tanning beds — serves as the No. 1 risk factor for skin cancer,” said Christopher Bichakjian, M.D., professor of dermatology at Michigan Medicine. “It’s imperative that you adopt safe sun habits whenever you’re outdoors.”

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., affecting nearly 1 in 5 Americans. That means more than 8,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer daily.

Read below for a few prevention tips, plus information on a free skin cancer screening opportunity for Michigan Medicine team members.

Prevent, check, detect

Skin cancer is prevalent, but also preventable and — if diagnosed early — typically very treatable. There are three easy steps you can take to help avoid — or successfully limit the effects of — the disease.

First, adopt habits to help fend off harmful rays. While you are outside, seek shade, cover up with a broad-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing when possible and always wear at least an SPF-30 broad-spectrum sunscreen on your sun-exposed skin.

“It’s important to always keep something between you and the sun, no matter what that ‘something’ is,” Bichakjian said.

Next, look for new or changing spots on your skin regularly.

“Early detection is key,” Bichakjian said. “Most skin cancers are readily treated when caught early, so we recommend checking your skin on a monthly basis.”

Finally, if you do happen to spot anything changing, bleeding or itching on your skin, immediately see a dermatologist.

The five-year survival rate for melanoma — the deadliest type of skin cancer — is 98 percent if caught early and before it spreads to the lymph nodes. That number drops to 63 percent if it has time to spread to the lymph nodes. So be sure to check early and often!

Get a free screening

To help keep the Michigan Medicine community safe, the U-M Cancer Center’s MOHS/Cutaneous Surgery Clinic and the Department of Dermatology is offering free skin cancer screenings.

Here is what you need to know about the free clinic:

  • When: 9 a.m. – noon, Saturday, June 3
  • Where: U-M Cancer Center, MOHS/Cutaneous Surgery Clinic, level 1
  • Who: Open to all, but registration is required
  • How to register: Call 734-936-4068 between 7 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. Based on availability, appointments will be made through May 31.

If you want more information on how to check your skin for potential skin cancers, download this self-screening card, courtesy of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.