It’s not summer yet, but there are still steps you can take to protect yourself from skin cancer.

According to Dr. Natalie Hone-Romero, the lead physician of St. Elizabeth’s dermatology department, skin damage can happen at anytime.

“We actually do recommend that people use sunscreen at least on their face during wintertime. There are great moisturizers now that have sunscreen in them, so that’s always a great way to do it,” she says.

Skin cancer is very common in the United States. While there are two types—non-melanoma and melanoma—the non-melanoma basal cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country.

“It usually shows up in skin that gets sun, so the most common place for people to get it is on head, neck, face and hands. But it can actually show up anywhere,” says Hone-Romero.

Those with the highest risk of developing this kind of cancer include fair-skinned individuals who tan poorly, those who spend a lot of time in the sun, people with naturally red hair, tanning bed users, those who’ve been exposed to radiation, people who have had skin cancer before and those on immunosuppression. While many of these risks can’t be eliminated, there are steps people can take to protect themselves at any age.

“I usually recommend avoiding mid-day sun, seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and wide-brim hats, and then regularly applying sunblock SPF 30 or above. If they’re going to be outside for long periods of time, it should be applied every two hours,” says Hone-Romero.

Even those who have already experienced a lot of sun damage can still decrease their risk by starting to take care of their skin.

“There is a lot of benefit from starting at any point in life, starting to protect yourself from the sun, and that’s because every time you keep on exposing yourself to the sun, you are creating a little bit more DNA damage to the skin cells,” says Hone-Romero.

Another step people can take is to start having regular full skin exams. Hone-Romero recommends starting with giving yourself one or having a loved one help. If any marks on the skin have changed, are itching or are bleeding, it’s time to have them looked at by a dermatologist.

Individuals can also have a primary care physician or dermatologist give them a full skin exam. According to UC Health, if common skin cancers are detected early, the cure rate is over 95 percent. Removing the skin cancer and some of the skin around is the treatment for most skin cancers. 

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