Question and answer
You may reduce your risk of basal cell carcinoma if you:
- Avoid the midday sun. Avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest. For most places, this is between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Because the sun's rays are strongest during this period, try to schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even in winter. You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays.
- Use sunscreen year-round. Choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB types of radiation from the sun and has an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Even the best sunscreen might be less effective than the SPF number on the bottle would lead you to believe if it isn't applied thoroughly or thickly enough, or if it's perspired away or washed off while swimming.
- Wear protective clothing. Wear protective clothing. Sunscreens don't provide complete protection from UV rays, so wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does. Some companies also sell photoprotective clothing. And don't forget sunglasses. Look for a pair that provides full protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds emit UV radiation, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.
- Become familiar with your skin so that you'll notice changes. Examine your skin so that you become familiar with what your skin normally looks like. This way, you may be more likely to notice any skin changes. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk, and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs, and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area, and between your buttocks. If you notice anything unusual, point it out to your doctor at your next appointment.
- Ask your doctor about screening. If you've already had skin cancer, you have an increased risk of a second cancer. Talk with your dermatologist about how often you should be screened for a recurrence and whether you should do periodic skin checks on your own.