The Valley is heating up, and we are already experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees.

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center we want to provide year-round tips for keeping your skin safe from harmful rays and other causes of skin cancer. One way we do this is through our mobile units from the T.W. Lewis Melanoma Center of Excellence. These units travel across the Valley to educate Arizonans about the importance of proper skin safety tips.

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Below are a few pointers that are shared at our mobile unit.

Maintain the basics

The biggest risk factor for melanoma and other skin cancers is ultraviolet (UV) sun exposure. While one should be utilizing sunscreen year-round, it is especially important to use sunscreen (recommended SPF 30 minimum) 30 minutes before you venture out into the summer heat. It is important to reapply sunscreen at least once every two hours, or sooner if sweating or in water.

Additionally, try to stay in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to avoid harsh rays. When you are out in the sun, it’s important to wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat.

Check your skin for suspicious spots

Everyone should do full body scans for suspicious spots every couple of months because anyone can get skin cancer—no matter their skin color.

It’s important to check everywhere because skin cancer can also develop in places that do not get sun exposure. Use a mirror to help you see your back, buttocks, genitals, and the soles of your feet, and ask a family member to help check your scalp. Suspicious spots or unusual moles could be a sign of skin cancer.

It can be helpful to take photographs of your skin to look back at to help determine if a spot is new or has changed. If you notice anything that concerns you, follow up with a dermatologist. Before your appointment, take photos of suspicious spots with your phone, so you can share these photos with your dermatologist and refer to them later if anything changes.

As you examine your skin, you want to look for:

  • Skin colored or pink bumps that may bleed or develop a crust
  • Flat red patches that are rough, dry or scaly
  • New spots or spots that change
  • Sores that don’t heal, or heal and then return
  • Spots or sores that change in sensation or are itchy, tender or painful
  • Spots that reappear after they’ve been treated with freezing or burning

Examine your moles using the ABCs

In addition to looking for suspicious spots on your skin, it’s important to keep a close eye on your moles. When doing a self-evaluation, keep in mind the below ABCs:

  • Asymmetry: The two sides look different from each other
  • Border: The border is crooked, jagged or irregular
  • Color: The mole is multicolored
  • Diameter: The mole is more than six millimeters across, or about the size of a pencil eraser
  • Evolution: The mole has changed in size, shape, color or feeling

Understand the lesser-known causes of skin cancer

While it’s true that getting too much of the sun’s UV rays is a leading cause of skin cancer, it’s not the only thing associated with skin cancer development. A few lesser-known risk factors include:

  • Tanning beds
  • Skin inflammation
  • Certain medications
  • Viruses
  • Chemicals
  • A compromised immune system
  • Your personal features and family history

The bottom line

Many suspicious spots aren’t cancerous. But if you are diagnosed with skin cancer, it will likely be one of these three types:

  • Basal cell carcinoma: A slow-growing cancer that seldom spreads internally
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: The second most common type of skin cancer that’s usually treatable with surgery, and can occasionally spread internally if left unaddressed
  • Melanoma: The most aggressive form of skin cancer; however, it is only responsible for 1% of cases

Most skin cancers are highly treatable, but once you get skin cancer, you’re at a higher risk of developing another skin cancer.

It’s important to examine your skin regularly to check for signs of skin cancer regardless of skin tone, especially if you have many moles or a history of skin cancer. To connect with a dermatologist who can help evaluate and monitor your skin, reach out to Banner Health. 

Author: Dr. Jordan Abbott is a dermatologist with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center delivers cancer care to patients through the partnership of Banner Health and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Banner MD Anderson offers focused disease-specific expertise in the medical, radiation and surgical management of the cancer patient; an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to patient care; access to clinical trials and new investigative therapies; state-of-the-art technology for the diagnosis, staging and treatment of all types of cancer; oncology expertise in supportive care services. For more information, visit