"What is the most common cancer?" asked Debra Youngfelt, Health Educator from the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute at a West End Rotary Club meeting.

"If you said skin cancer, or nonmelanoma, you are right," she said as she shared some astounding facts.

More than one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States.

By the age of 18, most people have received 50-80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure.

Most skin cancers are either basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, depending on the types of skin cells involved.

Skin cancer is almost always curable when detected and treated early.

The sun is the cause of at least 90 percent of all skin cancer.

Skin cancer is preventable.

"You can protect yourself and your family all year round by following a few rules," Youngfelt said and then outlined what each person should do to protect themselves against skin cancer.

Do not sunbathe.

Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the peak hours for harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

When outdoors, use sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher. Apply them liberally, uniformly and frequently.

When exposed to sunlight, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, broad-brimmed hats and UV-protective sunglasses. Seek shade whenever possible. Avoid the midday sun when UV rays are the strongest.

Up to 80 percent of skin cancers occur on the head and neck, so a wide-brimmed hat is a great way to shade your face, ears, scalp and neck from the sun's rays. If you wear a ball cap, use a sunscreen to protect your ears and neck.

Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. They can protect the tender skin around the eyes and reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Look for sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Try wrap-around lenses which keep UV rays from sneaking in at the sides.

Stay away from artificial tanning devices.

Teach your children good sun protection habits at an early age: The damage that leads to adult skin cancer starts in childhood.

Youngfelt said that it is important to examine your skin head to toe at least once every three months. The best time for a self-exam is after a shower or bath. By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what is normal. If you find anything unusual, a change in the size, texture, or color of a mole, or a sore that does not heal, see your doctor right away. Remember, the earlier skin cancer is found, the better the chance for a cure.

For more information about Skin Cancer, contact the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute at 570-941-7984 or visit www.cancernepa.org.