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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Summer is just around the corner, and many Americans are looking forward to spending time outdoors with friends or taking family vacations to warm destinations. I know that I am.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so it is the perfect time to refresh your skin cancer knowledge before you pack your picnic basket or beach bag. As a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program®, I am sharing this vital information to make sure skin protection is part of your summer plans.

Skin cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. An estimated 106,110 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—in 2021. In Maryland alone, an estimated 1,870 will be diagnosed this year. Most cases are caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, which means many cases are preventable.

Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color, age or gender. It might surprise you that men are more likely to be diagnosed than women. Make sure you follow the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s top tips for protecting your skin this summer and beyond.

Top Tips to Stay Skin Healthy

  • Wear a broad spectrum SPF 30 (minimum) sunscreen and lip balm daily. Even on cloudy days, the sun’s UV rays can reach the ground. They can even pass through a window in your car or home, so it is important to make sunscreen use a daily habit, regardless of the weather or your plans for the day. If you can, avoid the sun when the UV rays are strongest—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.—or stay in the shade.

  • Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating. A higher SPF does not mean you can reapply less often or safely stay in the sun longer.

  • Wear sunscreen on any skin exposed to the sun. Don’t miss any areas of exposed skin, including your lips, scalp, palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. Be sure to apply generously (most people need a palmful to cover their exposed skin). If you have tattoos, protect those areas as well.

  • It’s a good idea to have your health care provider examine your skin every year.

  • Check your skin every month and talk with your health care provider about any changes. Use the ABCDE rule to check your moles: look for signs of Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color that is not uniform, Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser, or Evolving size, shape or color. If you notice any changes or symptoms, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, make an appointment with a health care provider.

  • Completely avoid tanning beds and sun lamps. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, using tanning beds before age 35 can increase your chances of developing melanoma by 59%. Your risk increases with each use.

  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and face from UV rays. Melanoma is the most common type of eye cancer. When buying sunglasses, be sure to read the label to confirm they are UV-blocking.

To learn more about skin cancer prevention and early detection, visit

Nicole Beus Harris is the spouse of Representative Andy Harris, M.D. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society.

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