Skin cancer: Tips for preventing and finding

Dermatologists share these tips with their patients. These tips can help you prevent skin cancer — or find skin cancer early when treatment can cure the skin cancer.

Preventing skin cancer

  • Never use a tanning bed or sun lamp. These can cause skin cancer. Research shows that using a tanning bed increases your risk of getting melanoma by 75 percent.
  • Wear sunscreen and lip balm every day. The sun is a known cause of skin cancer. Every day, before you go outside, apply sunscreen to all skin that will be bare (face, ears, hands, neck, etc.). Apply lip balm to your lips. Be sure to use sunscreen that:

    • Protects against UVA and UVB rays. The label must say broad-spectrum or UVA/UVB protection. If it does not say either, find another product.
    • Has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

  • Wear clothes that protect you from UV rays. A jean jacket offers great UV protection. A white t-shirt does not. Any clothing that you can hold up to bright light and see through does not offer the protection you need.

    To boost the UV protection that your clothes offer, you may want to use a UV protectant. You wash this protectant into your clothes. To use, you simply add it to the wash cycle.

  • Wear sunglasses that offer UV protection every day. Melanoma can develop in the eyes.
  • Try not to spend time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is when the sun is strongest.

Watch a video of dermatologists’ top tips for preventing skin cancer.

Finding skin cancer

  • Perform skin self-exams. This can help you find skin cancer early when it can be cured. These exams are especially important if you have been treated for skin cancer.

    If you see something that looks like skin cancer, make an appointment to see a dermatologist. The earlier skin cancer is caught and treated, the more likely it can be cured.

  • Get screened for skin cancer. How often you need to get screened varies from person to person. 

    If you have never been screened for skin cancer, you may want to get a free screening. American Academy of Dermatology members offer free screenings across the United States. You can find out whether a screening will be in your area by visiting the following link: Free skin cancer screenings.

    You also may want to ask your primary care doctor whether you need to see a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. If your doctor recommends that you see a dermatologist, be sure to ask the dermatologist how often you should have a skin cancer screening. Some people need to be screened more often than others do.

    Anyone who is an organ-transplant recipient has a higher risk for developing skin cancer and should be screened. You can learn more about what organ transplant recipients can do to reduce their risk for getting skin cancer at: Organ transplant recipients benefit from seeing a dermatologist.
  • If you have been treated for skin cancer, keep all follow-up appointments with your doctors. The earlier skin cancer is caught and treated, the greater the chance of a cure.

Support groups and other resources

Learning that you have skin cancer can be frightening. You
do not have to face this alone. A support group can help.

Other resources:

Learn more about skin cancer:

Types of skin cancer:

Related resources:

Find a free SPOT me™ skin cancer screening.


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