Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Melanoma and Protect Your Skin

Sarah Jane Rodriguez

May 24, 2023

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With summer just around the corner, it is important to understand the risks of being in the sun without the use of sunscreen, and how to reduce your chances of getting melanoma and sunburn.

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Melanoma is a cancer that usually begins in skin cells. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancer, but it’s more likely to grow and spread. While melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, if it’s caught and treated early, it is usually curable.

Melanoma begins in the part of the skin that makes a pigment called melanin. This pigment gives skin its tan or brown color. Melanin protects the deeper layers of the skin from some harmful effects of the sun. For most people, exposure to the sun causes the skin to make more pigment. The skin, in turn, darkens or tans.

What are the Warning Signs of Melanoma?

Most moles, spots, and growths on the skin are harmless, but the Skin Cancer Foundation encourages everyone to look for the warning signs of melanoma and make an appointment with a doctor immediately if you see one or more of the signs.

What are the Risk Factors for Melanoma?

While everyone is at some risk for melanoma, other factors can play a role, including the number of moles you have, your skin type, and family history. Anyone can get melanoma or another type of skin cancer, regardless of age, gender, or race.

Is it Safe to Tan?

Although many of us love that sun-kissed glow, the American Academy of Dermatology warns that there is no safe way to tan. In fact, when you tan you’re actually damaging your skin. Over time, the damage can speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

Can Using Sunscreen Reduce the Risk of Melanoma?

Sun exposure can increase your risk for developing melanoma, so it’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone should use sunscreen every time you go outside, year-round, even on cloudy days.

Look for a sunscreen that offers:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays)
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistance

Following a Few Tips Can Help Protect Your Skin From Sunburn, Aging, and Skin Cancer:

  1. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen, which is one ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass. Adjust this amount depending on the size of your body and how much skin you need to cover.
  2. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outside.
  3. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  5. Don’t use sunscreen that’s more than three years old. If you use the right amount of sunscreen every time you go outside, a bottle probably won’t last more than a year.

Visit the APWU Health Plan’s website at and click on Healthy Living for health tips and more!

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