Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your skin and reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.

If you are interested in learning more about our sun safety program and hosting a training at your workplace, please contact our health education specialist at (208) 799-3100.

Skin Cancer Prevention:  Action Steps from the Environmental Protection Agency

Woman gardening

  • Do Not Burn.  Over exposure to the sun is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.
  • Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds.  UV light from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.
  • Use Sunscreen*.  Generously apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher 20 minutes before going outside.  Reapply at least every two hours, and after swimming or sweating.  *Babies under 6 months should not use sunscreen.  Protect babies by keeping them in shade and wearing protective clothing.
  • Cover Up.  Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with 99-100% UVA/UVB protection, when possible.
  • Seek Shade.  Seek shade when the sun’s UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Watch for the UV index.  Pay attention to the UV Index when planning outdoor activities to prevent over exposure to the sun.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three major types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma:  This is the most commonly diagnosed skin cancer.  It usually appears on overexposed skin on the face, ears, lips, and particularly the nose.  Rarely does basal cell carcinoma result in death, but it can spread and cause more serious health problems.  Basal cell carcinomas can start as a red patch or shiny bump that is pink, red, or white.  It may be crusty or have an open sore that won’t heal.  Because of effective early detection and treatment, basal cell carcinoma has a cure rate of more than 95%.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma:  This is the second most common skin cancer.  It is more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma and can spread to other parts of the body and may result in death.  Squamous cell carcinomas appear as a scaly patch or raised warty growth.  Because of effective early detection and treatment, squamous cell carcinoma has a cure rate of more than 95%.
  • Melanoma:  This is the most aggressive and dangerous skin cancer.  Malignant melanoma causes approximately 75% of skin cancer deaths. About 40 people in Idaho die of melanoma every year.  Receiving one or two blistering sunburns before the age of 18 at least doubles an individual’s risk for developing melanoma.  Fortunately, melanoma can be detected early through regular skin examinations.  Here’s what to look for

Know the ABCDE’s of Melanoma

If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match.


The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven.


Having a variety of colors is another warning sign.


Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a pencil eraser.


Any change – in size, shape, color, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching, or crusting – points to danger.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get skin cancer, but some people have a higher risk.  A skin classification system was created by a dermatologist, Thomas Fitzpatrick, in 1975 to determine a person’s risk of skin cancer; the lower the number, the higher the risk. Take this quiz to determine your skin type.

Skin Classification System
Skin Type Sunburn Tendency Tan Tendency Skin, Hair, and Eye Color
I I always get a sunburn. I never get a tan. White skin, freckles, blond or red hair, blue or green eyes
II I usually get a sunburn. I sometimes get a tan. White skin, blond hair, blue or green eyes.
III I seldom get a sunburn. I usually get a tan. White skin, usually dark hair, and brown eyes.
IV-VI I never get a sunburn. I always get a dark tan. Brown to dark skin, brown or black hair, brown eyes.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type

Public Health - Idaho North Central District
215 10th Street
Lewiston, ID 83501

Phone: (208) 799-3100
Fax: (208) 799-0349

Idaho Careline: 211

EPI ISSUES: 1-800-632-8000
For medical emergencies dial: 911.


All information is general in nature and is not intended to be used as a substitute for appropriate professional advice.

For more information please call (208) 799-3100 or Idaho Careline: 211.

Idaho Public Health

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