Healthy Habits

Ask the Expert: Skin Cancer

Hat, sunscreen, sunglasses

Content provided by the GBS Health & Wellness Team

Lengthened exposure to UV rays that come from natural or artificial sources causes most skin cancers. Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis (the outermost skin layer) that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma begins in the basal cells (a type of cell within the skin that produces new skin cells as old ones die). It often appears as a slightly transparent bump on the skin. Other symptoms include a growth or sore that won’t heal; a brown, black, or blue lesion; a flat, scaly patch; or a waxy, scar-like lesion.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the skin is a type of cancer that starts as a growth of cells on the skin. Though not typically life-threatening, if untreated it can spread and cause serious complications. Symptoms include a firm bump on the skin, a flat sore, or a rough scaly patch on the lip.

Melanoma is typically the most dangerous form of skin cancer but can be treated successfully if found early. Symptoms include a change in an existing mole or development of a new pigmented or unusual-looking growth on the skin. Melanomas symptoms can happen anywhere on the body. Melanomas most often develop in areas that have had exposure to the sun. View the “ABCDEs of Melanoma” at

Why Does it Matter?

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. It develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands, and legs. If untreated, skin cancer can cause serious complications and be life-threatening. It’s important to be educated on signs and symptoms of skin cancer to prevent this disease.

What Can I Do?

  • Be educated. Perform self-skin checks regularly so you can recognize any significant changes. Report changes to your doctor for further analysis.
  • Avoid tanning beds and direct sun exposure. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day.
  • Seek shade. Set up a shade sail, tent, or oversized umbrella when spending time outside.
  • Wear sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring.
  • Dress to protect. Wear protective clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and sunglasses that block both types of UV radiation.



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