SMART-TAKE: Skin Cancer

Slip, slap, slop. Slip on a shirt; slap on a hat; slop on the sunscreen. The slogan of Australia’s 1980s sun protection campaign is a succinct reminder of the dangers of sun exposure and a nod to a couple of easy ways to prevent skin cancer—without hiding indoors.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of a lifetime.

Skin cancer, which takes many forms—including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma—often starts as changes in your skin and progresses from there. Although we may think that skin cancer will predominantly impact beach-goers or those who work outside, other healthy outdoor activities pose their own risks: golfers, runners, and tennis players spend hours in the sun.


One of the best ways to protect yourself is with the use of sunscreen. Your pharmacist can help you to choose the best level of protection for your lifestyle.

In addition to the liberal use of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day, extended activity in the outdoors warrants a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Always check the label to be certain your product is “broad spectrum”, providing protection against both UVA and UVB rays. And, it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen a full 30 minutes before you go into the sun, and to reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.

The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends the following preventative measures for you and your family:

  • Find some shade—especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun completely. For children over six months, use sunscreen on them as (or more) liberally as you do on your own skin.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat.
  • Protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths—even before that “big trip”. Above all, do not let yourself burn.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month and have your doctor check you every year for early warning signs of a problem.

Know the ABCDE’s of potentially dangerous moles:

  • Asymmetric in shape
  • Irregular border
  • Multiple colors
  • Diameter larger than a pencil eraser
  • Evolving (larger, smaller, itching or bleeding)