Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Risk Factors, Warning Signs, and What You Should Do to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

May is annual Skin Cancer Awareness Month, but it brings focus to a topic that deserves year-round attention. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with more than five million cases diagnosed each year. Yet, it’s also the most preventable.

The majority of skin cancer cases are caused by UV exposure, but several efforts can help reduce your risk. Knowing the warning signs and going for routine screenings can also help save lives even when skin cancer does develop. Here’s everything you need to know about skin cancer awareness.

What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?

Like many other conditions, having a family history of skin cancer can increase a person’s risk for the disease. Fair skin that burns easily, blue or green eyes, blonde or red hair, and older age are also some common risk factors. Nonetheless, skin cancer can develop in people of any skin color. Prolonged and excessive exposure to UV rays — whether outside or in indoor tanning beds — increases your risk.

What Are the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer?

There are three main types of skin cancers, each with its own unique characteristics.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This type of skin cancer often appears in the areas of the body with the greatest sun exposure, including the face and neck. It may develop as a waxy or pearly bump, flesh-colored lesion resembling a scar, or a sore that repeatedly heals and scabs.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can appear on the face, hands, and other areas most frequently exposed to the sun. Be warned, however, that it can appear anywhere on your body — including inside your mouth, the bottoms of your feet and on your genitals. Typically, squamous cell carcinoma manifests as a red, firm nodule or scaly lesion.


Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Early detection is critical, as the sooner it is treated, the greater the odds are for a cure. Any new skin changes, such as the appearance of a mole, should always be quickly addressed with a dermatologist. 

You can also use the ABCDEs of melanoma to help spot early warning signs:

  •       A – Asymmetry: Most melanomas aren’t perfectly round, and instead have an uneven shape.
  •       B – Borders: The borders of a melanoma usually aren’t smoothed; they’ll often be scalloped or uneven.
  •       C – Color: If you spot a mole with multiple hues, notify your doctor. Harmless moles are usually only one shade of brown, but a melanoma may also have shades of white, blue, or red.
  •       D – Diameter (or also Dark): Melanomas may be small at first, but eventually they can develop to be larger than the size of a pencil eraser. Additionally, melanomas are typically darker than other moles.
  •       E – Evolving: Watch for any changes in size, shape, and color in moles, as well as developments such as bleeding or itching.


How Can You Prevent Skin Cancer?

Wearing sunblock year-round is one of the best forms of skin cancer prevention. Apply SPF of 30 or higher to all areas not protected by UV-blocking clothing, and use other barriers such as hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas. Aim to stay in the shade during the brightest parts of day, which is usually between 10 AM and 2 PM. In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, our team is offering 10% off all sun protection products at our online shop all of May.

While all adults should go for routine skin cancer screenings each year, don’t wait until your next annual visit if you’ve noticed a change in your skin. Schedule your appointment with us online or by calling (404) 355-5484.