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Skin cancer screening recommendations

Skin cancer is very common: One in five Americans develops skin cancer, and every hour, one American dies from the disease. However, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk.

Skin cancer is usually caused by overexposure to the sun and its harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Even if you don't spend long periods of time in the sun, it's important to practice good sun protection to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. This includes daily wearing of sunscreen with an SFP of 30 or higher.

Your risk of developing skin cancer increases if you:

  • have light skin color: fair-skinned people with blond or red hair and blue or light-colored eyes are at greater risk than dark-skinned people
  • don't tan easily
  • freckle easily
  • have a large number of moles or atypical moles
  • have had frequent sunburns
  • have had one or more blistering sunburns
  • live in an environment with high degrees of sun exposure
  • have a family history of skin cancer

Screening recommendations

Ages 18+: You should conduct monthly self-exams to look for new moles and birthmarks, or changes in existing ones. Your physician should evaluate them during your annual exam.

If you have a large number of moles, atypical moles, or a family history of melanoma, you should have an evaluation by a dermatologist.

Related links

Learn more about Dana-Farber's Skin Cancer Treatment Center.

Learn more about Dana-Farber's Melanoma Treatment Center.

Know how to separate myth from fact by reading the truth about melanoma blog post.

Read Melanoma: five things you need to know.

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