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Sun safety reminders for Skin Cancer Awareness Month


SALT LAKE CITY – May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Utah has one of the highest rates of melanoma, about twice the national average.

Mother Stephanie Arango understands the significance of skin cancer prevention. Whether it’s a sunny or overcast day, she takes precautions to protect her kids’ and her skin.

“I try to apply sunscreen every day because I know that it’s so important,” Arango said.

Arango playing with her son at a playground.
Arango playing with her son at a playground. (Photo: Emma Benson, KSL-TV)

It’s estimated that one in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.

“Even one sunburn increases our risk for skin cancer,” said Dr. Caroline Nebhan, a medical oncologist with Intermountain Cancer Center.

Nebhan said due to an outdoors lifestyle and high elevation, Utahns are at increased risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

“Most melanoma is caused by sunburns and lots of sun exposure, so the best way to prevent it is to practice good sun safety techniques,” she said.

Dr. Nebhan shows examples of what skin blemishes to keep an eye on.
Dr. Nebhan shows examples of what skin blemishes to keep an eye on. (Photo: Emma Benson, KSL-TV)

So what can you do? Avoid being outside during peak hours. The sun is usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

If you are outdoors, put on sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher, even on cloudy days. Nebhan said moisturizers or makeup products with SPF are helpful but insufficient.

Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating. Stay covered with long sleeves, long pants, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.

Make sure to see a dermatologist at least once a year and perform self-exams regularly. Nebhan recommends using the acronym “ABCDE” to check for melanoma.

  • Asymmetric: Look for asymmetric or unequally sized moles.
  • Border: Look for spots with jagged borders.
  • Color: Look for spots with varying colors.
  • Diameter: Look for large spots. Any moles bigger than the eraser of a pencil should be checked out.
  • Evolving: Look for any developing or changing moles.

“Those can all be red flags for melanoma,” Nebhan said. While melanomas can be found anywhere on the body, it’s most common on the face or other areas that are sun exposed.

A person measuring a mole that could be cancerous.
A person measuring a mole that could be cancerous. (Photo: Emma Benson, KSL-TV)

While skin cancer is dangerous, it is also preventable, so Arango is trying to instill good sun safety habits in her kids while they’re young.

“I hope that she’ll be like, ‘My mom used to do that all the time,’ so maybe in the future she’ll keep doing it,” she said.

Doctors remind us that artificial UV light sources, like tanning beds, can also cause skin damage.



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