Are You at Risk of Skin Cancer?Posted by Medicare Made Clear
Anyone can get skin cancer, but some people are at greater risk than others. Not all risk factors are the same for every type of cancer. However, many skin cancer risks do fall into five common categories.
Five Skin Cancer Risk Categories
Physical characteristics: People with very light skin, blonde or red hair, and blue or green eyes usually have less pigment (melanin) in the skin, therefore less protection from damaging UV radiation.
Family history of skin cancer: You may be at greater risk of skin cancer if one of your parents or a sibling has had the disease. If you have had the disease in the past, your chance of getting it again increases.
Certain skin conditions: People that have several moles, abnormal moles or precancerous skin growths called actinic keratosis, may be at higher risk for skin cancer. Abnormal moles are sometimes larger than normal and tend to look irregular. Actinic keratosis growths are often located on areas of the body that have had too much exposure to the sun, like the face or hands.
Excessive sun exposure: People whose skin reacts to the sun with rashes or freckles have a greater risk for skin cancer. Also, people who have a history of blistering sunburns, especially early in life have a higher risk of skin cancer. People who work or play outside a lot or who live in sunny locations may also have a greater risk of getting the disease.
Indoor tanning use: People who use indoor tanning, such as sun lamps or tanning beds have a higher risk of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of melanoma is higher if the person started indoor tanning before age 30 or 351 and the risk of basal and squamous cell skin cancer is higher if indoor tanning started before age 20 or 25. 1 People who use tanning beds also have a higher risk of melanoma of the eye.1
Prevention is one of the best ways to avoid skin cancer. Below are prevention tips from Mayo Clinic staff.2
- 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.
- 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.
- Wear protective clothing. Since sunscreens don’t provide complete protection from UV rays, you should cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs. You should also wear a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does.
- Protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses that block both types of UV radiation — UVA and UVB rays.
- Avoid tanning beds. Lights used in tanning beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
- Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications. Some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of any medications you take.
- Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor. Examine your skin often for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks.
It’s important that you tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or moles that look different from the rest of the moles on your body. Schedule your annual Wellness Visit and talk to your doctor about your skin cancer risk factors and screening options. Medicare Part B covers your Wellness Visit at no additional cost to you if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts your plan.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Skin Cancer Facts: Skin Cancer Foundation
Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
1 Does UV Radiation Cause Cancer?, American Cancer Society, May 30, 2014