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I spent my birthday weekend in sunny 100+ degree weather in Palm Springs, and am happy to report I have returned with nary a sunburn.  I was diligent about applying and re-applying sunscreen as well as staying in the shade.  I even remembered to put it on my scalp – something I often forget and end up with a tomato head.

Skin Cancer: Protecting your skin

Excessive exposure to the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin cancer. You can reduce your risk for skin cancer by:

  • Protecting your skin, and that of your family members, from UV radiation.
  • Performing frequent skin self-examinations.
  • Finding out whether you have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.

Why is it necessary to protect the skin?

You can stop skin cancer before it starts.

  • Exposure to the sun is the most common cause of skin cancer. Sunburns do the most damage, but sustained time in the sun increases the risk of skin damage and mole growth.
  • Most early skin cancers are easily seen on the skin and may be curable if treated early.
  • Some people have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. If you are aware that you have a greater risk, have regular skin exams and take steps to protect your skin.

Skin self-exam

A skin self-exam is used to identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine their skin once every month. Look for any abnormal skin growth or any change in the color, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth. Check for any area of injured skin (lesion) that does not heal.

To perform a skin self-exam:

  • Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Examine your body front and back, then examine your right and left sides with your arms raised.
  • Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, the back of your upper arms, and your palms.
  • Look at your feet, the soles of your feet, and the spaces between your toes.
  • Using a hand mirror, look at:          
                o The back of your legs.
                o The back of your neck and scalp. Part your hair to look at your scalp.
                o Your back, buttocks, and genital area.

You can also have your spouse or someone such as a close friend help you monitor your skin, especially places that are hard to see such as your scalp and back.  If you see a suspicious skin growth during your self-exam, contact your health professional.

From Health Advocate’s Preference Sensitive Coaching website

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