Tips and ideas to control and prevent skin cancer

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UnityPoint Health - John Stoddard Cancer Center

Skin Cancer Prevention and Control - What Works?

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Skin cancer prevention 

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. People can lower their risk of getting skin cancer by getting less sun exposure, protecting themselves while in the sun and avoiding tanning. 

Goals of skin cancer prevention (from the Community Preventive Services Task Force)

- Reduce sun exposure, especially during peak hours.

- Improve knowledge and attitudes about sun protection among children and adults.

- Change policies and create sun-safe environments. 

Skin cancer is common and preventable

- Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancer. They are highly curable but can be disfiguring and costly to treat. Click here for more.

- Each year nearly 60,000 people are diagnosed with the more dangerous melanoma. Thousands die from it.

- 65-90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps. Click here for more information on UV radiation.

- Just a few sunburns can increase cancer risk later in life. Click here to view our Save Your Skin messages from 2019.

People can do more to protect themselves

- More than 1/3 of adults and 1/3 of teens get at least one sunburn a year.

- Just over 1/2 of adults use sunscreen, wear protective clothes or seek shade while in the sun.

- Among high school students, 18% wear protective clothes or stay in the shade while 11% use sunscreen.

Skin cancer prevention findings from the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF)

Education and policy approaches in the primary school settings. Younger children are more willing than adolescents to practice self-protective behaviors and are more receptive to instruction by adults. Skin cancer prevention interventions in primary school settings encourage children in kindergarten through eighth grade to protect themselves from the sun. Approaches can include teaching children directly about how to protect themselves, educating teachers or parents, handing out brochures or videos, or changing school policies (scheduling outdoor activities outside of peak sun hours). These interventions can significantly increase knowledge and changed attitudes about sun protection. They can also make children more likely to cover up with protective clothes while in the sun.

Education and policy approaches in outdoor recreation settings. Interventions in recreational or tourist settings can increase the percentage of adults who cover up while in the sun. These interventions use approaches like educational brochures, sun-safety training and lessons, making shaded areas more available and providing sunscreen. Some studies suggest that these interventions can also improve children's sun-protective behaviors (like sunscreen use and covering up), but more evidence is needed.

Multicomponent community-wide interventions. Combining individual-focused strategies, mass media campaigns and environmental and policy changes can influence UV-protective behaviors when implemented in a specific geographic area. These interventions require a substantial investment of resources. To maximize benefits, they should be implemented for at least one year.

If you'd like more information from the Community Preventive Services Task Force, click here.