Southeastern Idaho Public Health

Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Of the three most common types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common and most curable (though at a cost and potential disfigurement). Melanoma, the third most common form of skin cancer, is more serious and causes the most deaths. The majority of these three types of skin cancer are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Exposure to UV radiation can also cause cataracts and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma). Idaho consistently ranks in the Top 10 states with the highest incidence and death rates for Skin cancer and Melanoma. That means more people are being diagnosed and dying from Melanoma each year. However, there are many things a person can do to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.

3 Major Types of Skin Cancer

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: (BCC) most common form of skin cancer. This starts in the Basal Cell layer of the skin and usually develops on areas of the body that are most often exposed to the sun: face, neck and arms. Appears waxy or pearly. BCC is highly treatable when caught early.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: (SCC) second most common form of skin cancer. SCC starts in the Squamous Cell Layer of the skin and also develops in sun-exposed areas. Appears red with a crust that doesn’t heal.

  • Melanoma: Is the most serious form of skin cancer and originates from existing moles. Tends to be darker and larger than normal moles. When checking for Melanoma, remember the ABCDE’s.

ABCDE's fo Melanoma

  • A - Asymmetry: If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves would not match.

  • B - Border: Irregular, scalloped, or notched border.

  • C - Color: Multiple colors or varied shades of tan, brown or black, and sometimes white, red, or blue.

  • D - Diameter: Larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on a pencil (1/4 inch or 6mm).

  • E - Evolving: During monthly checks look for any changes in size, shape, color, elevation, or a new symptom such as itching, bleeding, or crusting.

If you notice any of these characteristics in a mole, see your dermatologist as soon as possible.

Sunburns and Indoor Tanning

Every time you get a sunburn or tan, you increase your risk of getting skin cancer. Indoor tanning also causes premature wrinkles and age spots; changes skin texture, and increases the risk of developing blinding eye diseases. Click here for more tanning facts.

  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a proven human carcinogen. The World Health Organization classifies UV tanning devices as part of its Group 1 list of most dangerous cancer-causing substances. Plutonium and cigarettes are also included in Group 1.

  • Exposure to UV radiation during the first 18 years of life dramatically increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. People who use indoor tanning devices before age 30 are 8 times more likely to develop melanoma.

  • Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for young adults 15-29 years old.

  • Idaho legislation as of July 1, 2015: Persons ages 14-17 must have parental permission to use UV tanning devices, and person under the age of 14 are not allowed to use UV tanning devices. (HB 177.)

Who’s at risk for developing skin cancer?

Although anyone can get skin cancer, individuals with certain risk factors are particularly susceptible.

  • Light skin color, hair color or eye color

  • Family or personal history of skin cancer

  • Chronic exposure to the sun

  • History of sunburns early in life

  • Certain types and a large number of moles

  • Freckles, which indicate sun sensitivity and sun damage


  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Broad spectrum means it absorbs both UVA and UVB rays. Apply about 1 ounce of sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure. And reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.

  • Wear protective clothing: pants, long sleeves, hats that cover the ears, and sunglasses.

  • Seek shade when possible. The sun’s rays are the strongest from 10:00am to 4:00pm. When planning outdoor activities during these times, seek shade and use sunscreen.

  • Avoid tanning and sunburns. Any level of a tan is damage to the skin, whether it’s from a tanning bed or the sun.

  • Vitamin D doesn’t just come from the sun. You can receive plenty of Vitamin D from a healthy diet.

  • Be aware of your medications. Certain prescriptions medications and over the counter drugs can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Check with your doctor.

Skin Cancer Prevention
Skin Cancer Prevention Sub Menu

Skin Cancer Prevention Downloads

  A Parent's Guide to Sun Protection - Sun Fiction and Fact
  AAD Facts about Sunscreen
  ACS Finding Melanoma
  ACS What Causes Melanoma
  ACS What is Melanoma
  EPA Facts about Skin Cancer
  Kids Health for Parents Sun Safety
  No Sun for Baby
  Idaho has among the highest rates of deadly skin cancer in the United States
  WHO Tanning beds & Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Prevention Links

  American Academy of Dermatology: Skin CancerNet
  American Cancer Society
  Skin Cancer Foundation
  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  Environmental Protection Agency Sunwise Program
  Nation Cancer Institute
  National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention
  The Shade Foundation
  The Skin Cancer Foundation
  Sun Safety Alliance