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Dermatologist talks ‘safe sun practices’ during Skin Cancer Awareness Month



Healio Interviews

Disclosures: Jacob reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that skin cancer is more prevalent in the US than all other cancers combined, with more than 9,500 Americans diagnosed and more than two reported deaths every day.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, observed to educate the public about the dangers of ultraviolet radiation and encourage safe sun habits.

A hand holds a magnifying glass to possibly cancerous lesions on someone's back.
The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that skin cancer is more prevalent in the US than all other cancers combined, with more than 9,500 Americans diagnosed and more than two reported deaths every day.

Healio spoke with Carolyn JacobMD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, about the evolution of skin cancer treatment, the most important steps in prevention and lesser-known symptoms that can aid diagnosis.

Carolyn Jacob

Healio: How has the number of patients with skin cancer changed within the past few years?

Jacob: More people are being diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, they are being caught earlier in the stages in which it is curable.

Healio: What are the most important steps in preventing skin cancer?

Jacob: Practicing safe sun is the most important step in preventing skin cancer. I advise my patients to seek shade whenever possible, especially from 10 am to 2 pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Use clothing to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible.

For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label. Our office loves Midwest-based Mott50. Last but certainly not least, apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an [sun protection factor (SPF)] of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember to reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

Healio: How does skin cancer prevention change with age?

Jacob: As we age, moles and spots can accumulate. It’s important to get yearly skin exams with a board-certified dermatologist and practice regular self-exams to detect skin cancer early when it’s most treatable.

Healio: Are there any symptoms of skin cancer that are less discussed that may help its diagnosis?

Jacob: Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It’s important to look out for the warning signs of melanoma by remembering the ABCDEs:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
  • B is for Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
  • C is for Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm — or about the size of a pencil eraser — when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
  • E is for Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

Healio: How has skin cancer diagnosis and treatment evolved in recent years?

Jacob: DermTech has an adhesive patch to detect proteins associated with melanoma. New immunotherapy medications have now made it possible to survive after having stage 4 melanoma.

Healio: What actions should health care professionals take when looking at decrease the number of patients with skin cancer?

Jacob: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, with approximately 9,500 people diagnosed every day. Yet new data shows that misperceptions about sun protection are still prevalent. It’s important that health care professionals still raise awareness about skin cancer prevention and advocate for safe sun practices.

Healio: What new direction do you see skin cancer research going in the next couple of years?

Jacob: I expect more research on immunotherapy in order to perfect medications for melanoma that has spread to other organs.


For more information:

Carolyn JacobMD, FAAD, can be reached at

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