Skin Cancer

Cancer of the skin is the world's most common malignancy. One person dies of melanoma every hour. More than one million new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Nearly half of all new cancers are skin cancer.


UV radiation comes from the sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps. It seems to be the cause of all three common skin cancers – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The most serious type is melanoma because it can spread to other organs. ▪

  • While skin cancer has been associated with sunburn, moderate tanning may also produce the same effect. The most damaging sun exposure has already occurred by the age of 20.
  • Skin aging and cancer are delayed effects that don't usually show up for many years after the exposure. Physicians and scientists are especially concerned that cases of skin cancer will continue to increase as people who are now in their teens and twenties reach middle age.
  • UV radiation is thought to induce skin cancers by three mechanisms. First, ultraviolet light directly damages DNA leading to mutations; second, it produces activated oxygen molecules that in turn damage DNA and other cellular structures; third, it leads to a localized immunosuppression, blocking the body's natural anti-cancer defenses.
  • The ABCD's of early warning signs include: a symmetry, uneven b orders, varied c olors, and d iameters larger than a pencil eraser.

Dangers of Indoor Tanning

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage people to avoid use of tanning beds and sun lamps but according to industry estimates, 28 million Americans are tanning indoors annually at about 25,000 tanning salons.

  • Tanning beds release dangerously high levels of UV radiation. They can burn your skin and eyes and damage your immune system.
  • Six recent, rigorously designed studies have found an association between indoor tanning and the development of melanoma.
  • The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) have urged action that would ban the sale and use of tanning equipment for non-medical purposes, i.e. cosmetic.


  • Avoid the sun from 10:00-4:00 PM .
  • Studies have shown that sunscreen use can prevent skin cancer. Apply it in advance (at least 30 minutes) and reapply frequently (every 2-3 hours). Use products with an SPF of 15 or more.
  • Wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV ray protection and wear protective clothing such as broad brimmed hats to reduce exposure.
  • Check your body at least every three months and look for changes in a mole, a sore that doesn't heal, a skin growth that increases in size, or a spot that continues to itch, hurt or scab.
  • Go to a dermatologist at least once a year for a full body exam.
  • Annual cancer screenings are recommended for all adults. It is beneficial to take advantage of free and/or low-cost comprehensive screenings and early detection services.


American Academy of Dermatology, FDA, American Cancer Society, The Skin Cancer Foundation, Cancer Research & Prevention Foundation, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. The Fact Sheet of the Month is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.