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Skin Cancer

Sun-Safe Strategies to Prevent Skin Cancer

woman applying sunscreen to shoulder

Although researchers are trying many new ways to prevent and treat melanoma and other skin cancers, the best things you can do to protect yourself are:

There is no such thing as a good tan; a tan means there is damage. 

Too much sunlight can lead to:

Over the last 100 years, the number of non-melanoma skin cancers has increased. Every year more than 2 million non-melanoma cancers are found in the U.S.


Protect Yourself from Skin Damage

Like most people, you may mistakenly think that wearing a plain white T-shit outside will protect you from the sun’s rays. But, it will not. A plain white T-shirt is equal to about an SPF (sun protection factor) of 2-5. A wet white T-shirt offers an SPF of 0! 

The best thing for you to do is avoid the sun as much as possible, or, if you have to be outside, wear plenty of sunscreen with a high SPF value. Importantly, you must reapply the sunscreen.  Even sunscreens with a waterproof label will wear off over time. It is especially important to make sure that children have proper sun protection because they are at high risk for sun damage.

Visit the FDA’s Sunscreen web page to find out more about sunscreen labeling rules.

Sun protection is not just for the summer months either. Outdoor activities in the winter such as skiing or sledding also expose your unprotected face to dangerous UV rays. This means that you should use sunscreen year round when you are outside.


Watch for Changes in Moles or Skin Growths

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. It is only a matter of following through. In addition to avoiding too much sun, begin a lifelong habit of self-examination to protect yourself from skin cancer. Follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for self-examination, referred to as the "ABCD" rules, regarding any changes in moles or growths:

Please visit What to Watch For to view images of malignant melanoma.


Points to Remember


Children’s Skin Care (American Academy of Dermatology)
Skin Cancer Facts (American Cancer Society)
Sunscreens (Medline Plus)


Hope Through Research - You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about skin cancer. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:


This article is based on information provided by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Media Relations Office, and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.


For more information:

Go to the Skin Cancer health topic, where you can:

Last Reviewed: May 11, 2012

Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology
Associate Professor of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University