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How to protect yourself from skin cancer after survey finds increased number of people at risk

Melanoma Monday aims to raise awareness of skin cancer
Melanoma Monday aims to raise awareness of skin cancer 02:16

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet it remains one of the most common — and a recent survey finds not enough people are taking the right precautions, raising their risk.

The survey from the American Academy of Dermatology revealed more than one-third of adults reported getting a sunburn last year, the highest number since 2020. 

"A third of those sunburned reported a sunburn severe enough that their clothes were uncomfortable, and this was especially true among men," a news release noted.

On Melanoma Monday, a day of awareness observed May 6 this year, doctors are warning about the dangers of sunburns, which can raise the risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, later in life.

"Data shows a staggering truth: one in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime," Dr. Seemal R. Desai, dermatologist and president of the AAD, said in the release. "Everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer, especially if they don't take the necessary precautions."

What precautions do experts suggest? Reducing exposure to the sun and early detection is key. You can do this by:

  • Seeking shade, especially when the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Covering up with long, lightweight clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible.
  • Using sunscreen with a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher that you reapply every two hours.

Experts also suggest watching for changes to your skin.

Dr. Maral Skelsey of the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington urges her patients to do a head-to-toe self-check once a month. Red flags can include asymmetric borders of a mole, color change or a diameter larger than a pencil eraser.

"The number one thing to look for is something that is new or changing," she told CBS News. "Anything that is new or changing and stays there for about six weeks should be examined by your dermatologist."

It's also recommended for every American above age 18 gets an annual skin examination, Dr. Elizabeth Hale, associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone and senior vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation, previously told CBS News.

These exams can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages when it's the most curable. 

"Melanoma at its earliest stage has a 99% cure rate," Skelsey adds.

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