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The Importance of Sun Safety to Prevent Skin Cancer

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Hugh Jackman is urging others to practice sun safety after sharing his most recent skin cancer scare on social media.

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, and it’s a common form of cancer that can occur anywhere on the body. The actor recently underwent two biopsies after a recent doctor’s visit; however, this isn’t Jackman’s first skin cancer scare, as he had his first skin cancer removal in 2013 and has undergone several additional procedures since.

"Please wear sunscreen, it is just not worth it, no matter how much you want a tan. Trust me!" he said.

Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Skin cancer primarily occurs on areas of sun-exposed skin — including your arms and hands, scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest and legs — though it may also form on less common areas of the body, including your palms, under your nail beds and your genital area, so it’s important to screen yourself for any noticeable changes to your skin regularly.

Jackman shared that his doctor had noticed “little things which could be or could not be basal cell [carcinomas].” Basal cell carcinoma is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer, which means it’s less likely to spread. It’s most often caused by overexposure to the sun or use of tanning beds.

In addition to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are two other major types of skin cancer to be aware of. Signs of skin cancer can vary; however, potentially concerning skin developments to be aware of include:

  • Existing moles that change in color, size or feel, or that bleed
  • Brown, red or purple spots or patches
  • Lesions — these may appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black and might be scaly, scar-like, or crusted
  • New bumps or nodules — they may be firm, pearly, or waxy

While the cause of these symptoms is not always skin cancer, it is always best to keep your health care provider informed so they can help you obtain treatment, if necessary.

Practice Sun Safety

Though Jackman is native to Australia, which has the highest skin cancer rate in the world, he has said his prior diagnoses have still come as a surprise.

“It’s always a bit of a shock just hearing the word ‘cancer,’” he shared. “Being Australian it’s a very common thing. I never wore sunscreen growing up, so I was a prime candidate for it.”

While his recent biopsies have thankfully come back negative, Jackman hopes his skin cancer scare reminds people to be sun safe. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation plays a large part in the formation of skin cancer cells. Here are some tips to promote sun safety:

  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Limit your time in the sun to avoid over-exposure
  • Use sunscreen — even on cloudy days, your skin can be exposed to high levels of UV rays
  • Wear a hat —the scalp is a common area of occurrence for skin cancer formation; if you plan to be outside for a while, wearing a hat is a great way to keep your scalp protected

“Please remember to wear sunscreen with a high level of SPF (no matter the season),” says the actor. Make applying sunscreen part of your daily routine throughout the year, but especially during the summer.

Schedule Your Screening

Skin care is often overlooked as part of health care, but it’s important to make it a priority. It’s a good idea to see a dermatologist annually. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest likelihood of successful skin cancer treatment. And while not all skin changes are caused by skin cancer, if you notice any changes that cause you to worry, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.

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