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Risk factors

All three types of skin cancer share common risk factors. People who have the following traits or experiences are at greater risk:


The National Cancer Institute recommends the following ways to protect skin from the sun and help prevent skin cancer from occurring:

  • Avoid "peak" sunlight hours - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Wear protective clothing including wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts and pants during prolonged sun exposure.
  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher, 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.  Reapply every two hours.
  • Have skin checked once a year by a dermatologist.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin - especially a new growth or a sore that doesn't heal. In addition, moles with the following characteristics should be checked immediately:

  • Asymmetry - on one half does not match the other half
  • Border irregularity - edges are ragged, notched or blurred
  • Color - color is not the same throughout
  • Diameter of mole is wider than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing

For more information on skin cancer prevention, contact the Norton Cancer Institute Prevention & Early Detection Program at 1-800-555-6772 or email A health care professional will research and respond to your question within 48-hours. Exceptions may include weekends and holidays. 

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