Healthwise For Women: Skin Cancer

(FN1906, Revised November 2023)

According to one study, self-checks of skin may decrease mortality from melanoma by 63 percent because doctors do not routinely check for skin abnormalities.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist
Web only
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Quick Quiz

  1. True or false: In women, skin cancer often develops on the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and legs.
  2. True or false: Tanning beds increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
  3. True or false: Vehicle windows do not block the sun’s rays.

Answers: All are true statements.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of skin cells due to DNA damage. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common and highly curable types of skin cancer. A third type, melanoma, causes the most deaths.

How common is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common malignancy in the world. Factors such as skin type, previous history, tanning bed use, unprotected sun exposure, smoking and poor diet all contribute to increased risk. In 2020, 8,214 people (2,839 women and 5,375 men) in the U.S. died from melanomas of the skin. In the United States, 77,230 new cases of melanomas of the skin were reported in 2020.

Source: https://gis.cdc.gov/Cancer/USCS/#/AtAGlance/

What are some potential signs of skin cancer?

According to one study, self-checks of skin may decrease mortality from melanoma by 63 percent because doctors do not routinely check for skin abnormalities.

Do you have any spots on your skin that:YesNo
Have changed in color, size or texture?oo
Have irregular borders?oo
Are bigger than ¼ inch (pencil eraser)?oo
Appeared after age 21?oo
Appear pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black or multicolored?oo
Itch, hurt, crust over or scab, erode, bleed or haven’t healed within three weeks?oo
Other risk factorsYesNo
Have had a sunburn?oo
Have used tanning beds?oo

If you say “yes” to any of the above, let your health-care provider know.

How can I lower my risk?

Sunscreen is vital for helping prevent skin cancer. Check out the sun protection factor (SPF) on sunscreen bottles. Most sources recommend sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreens with a higher SPF offer more protection.

Be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen (about 1 ounce per application) and get help as needed to apply sunscreen to your back, for example. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or more often if you are swimming or perspiring.

When you purchase sunscreen, look for an expiration date. If it does not have an expiration date, label the bottle with the date of purchase and use within three years.

Follow these sun safety recommendations:

  • Seek shade, especially during the midday hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear sunscreen even if you are under a protective umbrella or shady tree, or while driving in your car on a summer road trip.
  • For best sun protection when outdoors, wear long-sleeved clothes and pants made from tightly woven fabric.
  • Be sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat made from fabric with a tight weave to shade your eyes and protect your neck and ears.
  • Wear high-quality sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV (ultraviolet)-A and UV-B rays. Exposure to UV rays is linked with macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss as we age. Cataracts (a clouding of the cornea) and skin cancer on the eyelids also are linked to unprotected exposure to sunlight.


These recipes were selected because many of the ingredients are associated with healthy skin and reducing the risk for cancer.

Key to abbreviations:

  • c. = cup
  • Tbsp. = tablespoon
  • tsp. = teaspoon
  • g = gram
  • mg = milligram
  • oz. = ounce

Savory Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp. chopped sage (about 10 leaves)

4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth

1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 (15.5-oz) can navy beans*

1 tsp. turmeric

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. pepper

Dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds and/or sage for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for five to seven minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and sage, and cook for another minute. Add vegetable broth, pumpkin, beans, turmeric, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Allow the soup to cool before transferring in small portions to a blender to puree. You may use an immersion blender, too. Transfer the soup back into the pot and let cook on medium-low heat for five to 10 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish as desired.

 *Adding additional beans and pumpkin will change the consistency. If you desire a thicker consistency, add more beans and pumpkin.

 Makes six (1 cup) servings. Each serving has 130 calories, 2.5 g fat, 5 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, and 300 mg sodium.

Fruit, Cheese and Nut Salad

Fruit Nut Salad

3 c. spring greens

1 small apple or pear, cut into thin slices

½ c. grapes, sliced lengthwise

⅛ c. crumbled feta cheese

¼ c. toasted walnut halves

In a large bowl, toss greens, apples and grapes together. Pour favorite dressing over the fruit and greens, and toss again to combine. Top salad with feta crumbles and toasted walnuts. Serve immediately

Makes two servings. Each serving (without dressing) has 180 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber and 115 mg sodium.

Green Smoothie

1½ c. strawberries, hulled

2 c. spinach

½ banana, peeled

1 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate

½ single serving low-fat yogurt, any flavor

¼ to ½ c. milk, water or juice

Place prepared ingredients in freezer-safe bag. Push out air and lay flat in freezer. When ready to prepare, place ingredients in blender with ¼ to ½ c. milk, water or juice.

Makes two servings.

Each serving has 160 calories, 2 g fat, 6 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber and 95 mg sodium.

See www.ag.ndsu.edu/healthwiseforwomen for more information about women’s health.