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Are You Protecting Your Skin the Right Way?

With warmer days approaching, people will spend more time outside soaking up the sun and enjoying the longer days. While time outside is enjoyable, the sun can harm our skin when we don't take the proper precautions to protect it. Here are some ways to better protect your skin from sun exposure:

1. Wear Sunscreen: Ensure it is broad-spectrum with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply as directed, and remember to reapply after swimming or sweating. If your sunscreen has been on the shelf for a few years, check its expiration date before using it. If it’s expired, throw it out and purchase a new one.

2. Rock a Hat: Whether it’s a ball cap, a wide-brimmed beach hat, a bucket hat or any other variation, sport it to shield your face and eyes from the sun.

3. Dress Smart: Clothing can help you look good while protecting you from the sun’s UV rays. Opt for a lightweight long-sleeved shirt and pants. 

4. Wear Sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes and the skin around them.

5. Avoid Laying Out in the Sun: While getting that bronze glow makes us look great, prolonged exposure to the sun, even with sunscreen, can be harmful. Enjoy time outside under the shade of a tree or beach umbrella.

6. Avoid High Exposure Times: The sun’s rays are strongest from 10 am to 4 pm. Try to stay out of the sun during its peak hours.


How to Check for Skin Cancer

Regular skin checks are crucial, especially for those at higher risk, such as individuals with a strong family history, low immunity, or a previous skin cancer diagnosis. Even if you protect your skin from the sun, examine it monthly for any abnormalities.

Steps for a Skin Exam:

1. Preparation: Use a well-lit room, a full-length mirror, and a handheld mirror for hard-to-see areas like your back and scalp.

2. Initial Check: Stand facing the mirror to inspect your face, ears, neck, and below. Women should lift their breasts to check the skin underneath.

3. Arms and Hands: Examine your underarms, both sides of your arms, tops and palms of your hands, between fingers and under your nails.

4. Lower Body: Sit to inspect the front of your thighs, shins, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails.

5. Back and Legs: Use the handheld mirror to check the back of your thighs, calves and bottoms of your feet.

6. Torso: Inspect your buttocks, genital area, lower and upper back, and the back of your neck and ears.

7. Scalp: Part your hair with a comb or hairdryer to examine your scalp.


What to Look For:

Different types of skin cancer can appear in various ways. These are the most important things to watch for during a skin exam. 

- New, expanding, or changing spots or bumps

- Sores that bleed or don't heal after several weeks

- Rough, red patches that might crust or bleed

- Wart-like growths

- Moles that change in size, shape, or color

- Moles with irregular shapes, borders, or areas of different colors


Pro Tip: If you notice a spot that you aren't sure of, take a picture of it to compare the next time you do a skin check.


When checking for Melanoma, remember your ABCDEs: 

Asymmetry: One half doesn't match the other.

Border: Uneven or irregular edges.

Color: Multiple shades of brown or black, sometimes with white, gray, blue, or red.

Diameter: Larger than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser).

Evolution: Changes over time.