Prevention

Skin cancer prevention

Many factors can put you at higher risk for skin cancer. For instance, if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun, you’re at higher risk. Unusual moles or having a lot of moles might be an early sign of cancer, too. Even some factors that are inherited — like having red or blonde hair — increases your skin cancer risk. 

At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), our dermatologists and skin specialists provide skin surveillance, or monitoring, for people with a history of melanoma. 

If you have not been diagnosed with a skin cancer, but you have questions or concerns about your skin or you have noticed an abnormality, our alliance partners in dermatology at the University of Washington Medical Center can help you.  

“We are proud of our SCCA dermatology team that assesses people’s individual risk of developing skin cancers. This allows us to detect skin cancers early and to treat them most effectively.”
— Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD, Director, SCCA Skin Oncology Clinical Program

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) 

Most risk factors apply to all three major types of skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma). But some factors are associated only with nonmelanoma skin cancers and others only with melanoma. 

How do I know if I’m at risk?

You are at increased risk for all three major types of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) if any of the following apply to you. 

Inherited risks 

  • You have fair skin; blond, red or light brown hair; blue, green or grey eyes; or freckles.  
  • You have 50 or more moles. 
  • You have “funny-looking” moles that are larger than a pencil eraser and have multiple colors in them. 
  • You are sensitive to the sun, due to a genetic issue. 
  • One or more of your first-degree relatives (a parent, sibling or child) had skin cancer. The more family members who have had skin cancer, the higher your risk. 
  • You have xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare, inherited condition in which your body cannot repair DNA damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light. 

Environmental exposure 

  • You had several blistering sunburns as a child or teen, or you burn before you tan. 
  • You spend a lot of time outdoors for work or play. 
  • You work indoors all week and then are exposed to sun on the weekends — while playing, gardening or washing the car without a shirt on, for example. 
  • You live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates and areas with year-round, bright sunlight. 
  • You live, work or vacation at high altitudes.  
  • You have used tanning beds, booths or sun lamps. 

Other causes 

  • You have been treated for skin cancer in the past. 
  • Your immune system is weakened because you are taking medications for an organ transplant, have AIDS or cancer or are on immunosuppressant medicines. 
  • You take any medicines that may be harmful when you are out in sunlight or make you more prone to sun damage. 
  • You are older. The risk of developing skin cancer increases with age, but young people can also get skin cancer, and children are extremely susceptible to sun damage. 

Learn About Melanoma Risk Factors

Learn About Merkel Cell Carcinoma Risk Factors

Are there lifestyle changes I can make to help reduce my risk?

Yes, but the earlier you start, the better. Skin damage occurs over time, and studies show that children tend to get 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure by age 18. We suggest using these safe sun practices: 

  • Limit your sun exposure and use sunscreen.  
  • Limit the amount of time you or your children are in the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm. This is when the sun’s UV rays, which cause sunburn and skin cancer, are strongest. 
  • Most sunburn can be prevented by using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. SPF tells you how long your skin can be in the sun and maintain a low risk for sunburn. The higher the SPF number, the longer it protects you from burning rays. For example, an SPF of 30 protects you for twice as long as an SPF of 15  
  • Wear sunglasses or a hat with a visor to protect your eyes. 
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, ears and neck. 
  • Consider wearing clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 50 or higher during outdoor activities, especially if you will be outside for a long time. 
“The early detection and treatment of skin cancer is critical to minimizing risks to your overall health. Our expert dermatology team is committed to careful skin surveillance and making sure we do our best to catch things before they get out of hand”
— Ata Moshiri, MD, MPH, Dermatologist/Dermatopathologist

Care team

Our team is made up of experts from a variety of specialties within SCCA and our alliance partners at the UW Medical Center. Learn about what each team member does.

Advanced practice provider

These health care professionals work closely with your physician. There are two types: physician assistants (PAs) and advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs). They help provide and coordinate your care and can see you independently from your physician.  

Dermatologist

A dermatologist specializes in diagnosing and treating skin conditions. These medical professionals are also committed to skin cancer education and prevention.  

Registered nurse (RN)

Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician. They also assist with procedures and treatments. Nurses are resources for you and your caregiver. They answer questions and help with a wide range of topics, like how to cope with side effects or get other services you need at SCCA. 

Team coordinator

Your team coordinator works closely with you and your physician. They serve as your scheduler. 

Find care team profiles

Meet the caring, dedicated people who take care of you and your family at SCCA.

Coley J. Doolittle-Amieva, PA-C
Coley J. Doolittle-Amieva, PA-C
Physician Assistant
Advanced Practice Provider
Ata S. Moshiri, MD, MPH, FAAD
Ata S. Moshiri, MD, MPH, FAAD
Physician
Dermatology
Paul T. Nghiem, MD, PhD
Paul T. Nghiem, MD, PhD
Physician
Dermatology
Song Y. Park, MD
Song Y. Park, MD
Physician
Dermatology
Michi M. Shinohara, MD
Michi M. Shinohara, MD
Physician
Dermatology