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How to Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer: Advice From a Dermatologist

Dr. Camille Howard

While looking your best is a great motivator for taking daily sun protection more seriously, one of the biggest benefits for your health is skin cancer prevention. Dr. Camille Howard, board-certified dermatologist and IT Cosmetics advisory board member, says, “Skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early, but it can be life-threatening if left untreated and allowed to spread.”

Keep reading to learn about skin cancer prevention, visible signs of skin cancer, the importance of yearly skin checks with your dermatologist and at-home skin check tips from Dr. Howard.

How likely are you to get skin cancer?

“Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime1,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology.


The AAD also says that the most common type of cancer, basal cell carcinoma, “frequently develops in people who have fair skin.” Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of cancer, “mostly develops in people who have darker skin. People who have skin of color also get this skin cancer.”


The good news is that there are some protective measures you can start to take today to decrease your risk of these and other types of skin cancer.

Most common places to identify signs of skin cancer

First, let’s identify where you’re most likely to see visual signs of skin cancer. These are the spots that typically get the most sun exposure or may be overlooked during sunscreen application:

• Face
• Lips
• Ears
• Neck
• Scalp
• Shoulders
• Hands
• Chest
• Legs

How to Reduce Your Skin Cancer Risk

Wear Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen Daily

As a first line of defense, you’ll want to always apply sunscreen daily. More specifically, Dr. Howard talks about why choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen like Hello Sunshine Invisible Sunscreen for Face SPF 50 makes a difference: “Broad-spectrum sunscreen covers UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are considered dangerous because they can directly damage the DNA in skin cells. UVA rays can also damage the DNA in skin cells and they are a primary cause of premature skin aging, including wrinkles and fine lines.”

Hello Sunshine SPF

Wear Protective Clothing

Ever heard of UPF? If you know what SPF (sun protection factor) is, you’re almost there. UPF is ultraviolet protection factor, or how much UV radiation can reach the skin through clothing. Dr. Howard’s pro tip is to use the UV index when traveling to help her decide what to pack. She shares, “I like to look at UV index and dew point. It helps me to figure out if I should pack UPF clothing and the type of cleansers and skincare products I will need.”

Get Yearly Skin Checks

Just as yearly physicals help with early detection, a yearly skin check is recommended to stay ahead of any skin changes and diagnose skin cancer when it is easiest to treat. Finding a dermatologist is one of the first steps you can take to stay in control of your skin health. Dr. Howard says, “Establish care with a dermatologist in your area. You can use to find a dermatologist.”

Do Regular Skin Checks at Home

In between your yearly skin checks by your doctor — which are a non-negotiable — dermatologists recommend supplementing with regular skin checks in the comfort of your home. Here are Dr. Howard’s pro tips for an at-home skin check you can do today:

When examining moles or other skin lesions for signs of skin cancer, use the ABCDE rule as a guide:

A: Asymmetry - Check if one half of the mole is unlike the other half
B: Border irregularity - Look for moles with irregular or poorly defined borders
C: Color variation - Pay attention to moles with multiple colors or shades of brown, black, red, white or blue
D: Diameter - Be aware of moles larger than the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm or 1/4 inch)
E: Evolution - Monitor moles or skin lesions that have changed in size, shape, color, texture, or those that itch, bleed or become painful

How to tell the Difference: Sun Spots vs. Freckles

Ever wondered what causes freckles or how to spot the difference between them and sun spots? With regular sun exposure, you may notice the appearance of hyperpigmentation like dark spots on your face and other areas that are frequently exposed to the sun.

We asked Dr. Howard to share her insight on the key differences: “Ephelides are freckles. They are small brown spots that typically first appear in early childhood and are typically on unexposed areas. They may fade in the winter. Solar lentigos are dark brown to black spots on the skin and are typically seen in sun exposed skin of middle-aged to older individuals.”

While sun spots and freckles are typically non-cancerous, always use the ABCDE rule above to help monitor your spots and decide when it may be time to see your dermatologist about any changes you notice.

Now that you’re well on your way to taking control of your skin health, check out SPF 101: The 5 Most Common Sunscreen Mistakes (and What to do Instead)! to learn more.


1. American Academy of Dermatology. “Skin Cancer.” April 22, 2022.
2. American Academy of Dermatology. “Types of Skin Cancer.”

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