With the official start of summer right around the corner, now is the perfect time to prioritize your skin health.
I get it, you’re busy. Screenings can be inconvenient, and costly if you haven’t yet met your health insurance deductible. Let me inject a voice of reason: it is absolutely more inconvenient and expensive if something problematic not detected early. Oh, and life threatening.
Having had a melanoma in situ diagnosed some years back after I insisted a mole on my hand was concerning to my doctor at the time, I am borderline paranoid. 1) Because he didn’t initially think it problematic, but did say whenever a patient expresses a particular concern he biopsies the area – thank goodness for his good ear; and 2) I have a lot of moles. I mean a lot!
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Care, periodic skin examinations are the key to diagnosing skin cancer at its earliest stage, when it is most easily cured. Most cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma first appear as changes in the skin.
In my work at Balance Integration, we held a “screenapalooza” event at one of our clients and brought skin cancer screenings right to the office. Not only was it a hit, it saved someone from a dangerous battle – suspicious spots were examined and skin cancer diagnosed within 4 days. In his/her words, “This experience not only diagnosed something that had it gone undetected may have down the road been more serious, but it also opened my eyes to the necessity for regular screening.”
Not everyone is at risk, but if you have at least one of the following, it’s time to incorporate regular skin checks into your repertoire:
- Experienced sunburns as a child or adolescent (yes, those days slathering on the baby oil and soaking up the sun could catch up with you)
- Used a tanning bed (according to molesafe, “the use of tanning beds before the age of 35 increases your risk 87 percent”)
- Have fair skin and light colored eyes
- Have a lot of moles (especially if any look atypical, changes size, shape or color, itches and/or bleeds).
- Side note: According to molesafe, the presence of atypical moles suggests that your body has the ability to produce melanin (the pigment in your moles and melanoma) at an irregular rate. Those with this ability are more susceptible to melanoma than someone who has no moles or normal looking moles.
- Have a personal or family history of melanoma or other skin cancers in the family
If you don’t have a dermatologist, The American Academy of Dermatology lists locations for FREE skin cancer screenings throughout the U.S. Sign up!
Or have some fun with it and check your partner using this handy dandy chart (no bathing suits required)!
As cited in the NYT: “There are 3.5 million cases of skin cancer in the United States each year, yet fewer than one third of people use sunscreen regularly, according to a 2015 May report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Be sure to use sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 to avoid harmful UV rays (even on cloudy days). I find applying BEFORE you go outside is most effective (and you’re less likely to get those funny looking sunburn streaks). Use generously (at least one ounce is recommended to cover your whole body. More if you’re big).
If you’re going to be outside for long periods of time, reapply every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating. Don’t forget to protect your lips and wear a hat.
And be a pal, if you see someone burning, speak up.
Following those guidelines will improve your overall skin health, reduce your risk of skin cancer, plus avoid wrinkles, sun spots and reduce signs of aging.
There has been some talk about wearables, but now the market seems to be favoring apps to tell you when dangerous rays high and to remind you to apply sunscreen. I’m skeptical, and instead suggest this test:
- Going outside? Protect yourself!
- Have any of the previously mentioned list of risks? Get screened!
It simply can save your life.
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™
You can find some additional resources here.