Skin exposed by lighter clothing layers and swimsuits may go beyond an innocent, sun-kissed tan, and instead blister from harsh ultraviolet rays. They also may lead to signs of skin cancer.

  Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and most cases result from overexposure to the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The AADA also found that sunburns during childhood or adolescence can increase the odds of developing melanoma later in life because experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20 increases one’s melanoma risk by 80% and nonmelanoma skin cancer risk by 68%.

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While anyone can get skin cancer, people with genetic characteristics such as skin that burns, reddens easily or a family history of skin cancer are at greater risk.

To reduce the chances of developing cancer, it is important to protect skin from UV rays by staying in the shade, wearing protective clothing, donning a wide-brimmed hat, and applying and reapplying sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher.

Avoiding indoor tanning such as tanning beds, booths, sunbeds and sunlamps also prevents exposure to high levels of UV rays.

Dermatologists recommend performing regular skin self-examinations as this can help people catch skin cancer early when it’s highly treatable. Checking moles regularly can help a person find any suspicious changes.

A noticeable change in the skin is the most common sign of skin cancer, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal or a change in a mole. However, not all skin cancers look the same.

A simple way to remember the five warning signs of skin cancer is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma: 

  • Asymmetry – Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two sides that look very different?
  • Border – Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • Color – Is the color of the mole an uneven color (e.g. varying shades of brown or black)?
  • Diameter – Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • Evolving – Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

It is important to talk to a doctor if there are any noticeable changes to the skin such as new spots, spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma. 

Early detection saves lives and learning what to look for gives you the power to detect skin cancer early when it’s easiest to treat –– before it can become dangerous, disfiguring or deadly.

Author: Pablo Prichard, M.D. has been the Chief of Plastic Surgery at Honor Health/ John C. Lincoln Hospital for 14 years, Medical Director for Plastic Surgery and is Senior Partner at Advanced Aesthetics Associates. Dr. Prichard has served more than 2,000 patients every year and has specialized in both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. For more information, visit and follow-on Instagram and TikTok @drpabloplastics