MAY 14, 2019 12:06 PM PDT

Take Care of Your Skin This Summer: Protective Steps and Self-Exams

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer, which affects about one in five Americans. UVB radiation is the most closely associated with sunburn, skin cancer and melanoma, but UVA rays can also cause premature aging and play a role in skin cancer development. Along with taking steps to protect your skin while outdoors, which we’ll review below, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you conduct a head-to-toe self-examination of your skin monthly. This brief self-care routine can help you find any new or changing areas of concern or lesions that could be cancerous or precancerous.

Skin Self-Exam

To conduct a skin self-exam, set aside some time with a full-length and small mirror, two chairs or stools, and a hairdryer. Having a bright light on and a blank “body-map” to make notes on is also helpful. If a friend or family member is available to help you with areas like the scalp, all the better.

Credit: collage, public domain images

Use both mirrors to conduct a thorough search of your face, including the lips, nose and ears, from all angles. Use the blow-dryer and small mirror to check out the state of your scalp -- this is an area where a friend can be helpful.

Take time to examine both sides of your hands, then use the large mirror to scan your entire arms, including the underarm. Then move on to the chest, torso and neck. People with breasts, or other areas where the skin is hidden, should move and lift these areas during the examination.

Turn your back to the full mirror and use the hand mirror to scan the back of your body, from your neck down to calves. To check your genitals, sit in the chair and prop one leg at a time up in the other chair, and use the hand mirror. Then examine your legs and feet, including the toes and soles. “If you spot anything suspicious, see a doctor,” the Skin Cancer Foundation states. It also recommends a professional skin exam with a dermatologist “at least” once a year.

Protecting Your Skin Outdoors

The American Cancer Society (ACS) uses a catchphrase, “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap,” to help you remember some key ways to protect yourself from UV rays. First, “slip” on a shirt and other clothing. Tightly woven, dry fabrics are generally more protective. Remember that babies, especially those under six months, should always be kept out of the sun or fully covered.

“Slop” on sunscreen -- for most adults, an ounce, or about a shot glass or palmful, is a good amount for covering your body. Be sure to teach children a sunblock routine early in life. Reapply at least every two hours or after swimming or heavy sweating. Sunscreens with broad-spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more are best.

ACS explains, “when applying an SPF 30 sunscreen correctly, you get the equivalent of one minute of UVB rays for [every] 30 minutes you spend in the sun. So, one hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending two minutes totally unprotected.”

“Slap” on a hat. It is common for skin cancer to develop on the neck or ears, so hats that provide the most shade coverage are recommended. “Wrap” on sunglasses to protect the skin around your eyes and your eyes themselves. Be sure to choose UV-blocking sunglasses. As well as protecting the sensitive areas around the eyes, ACS states spending a long time in the sun without eye protection can increase your chance of developing some eye diseases.

Credit: collage, public domain images

Spending time in the shade is also a good choice. The sun’s UV rays in the continental U.S. are usually the most hazardous between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and during late spring or early summer. While taking protective steps is essential, ACS states, “you don’t have to avoid the sun completely. And it would be unwise to stay inside if it would keep you from being active, because physical activity is important for good health.”

Sources: American Cancer Society, Skin Cancer Foundation, Center for Disease Control

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 13, 2021
Cancer
Fat Loss can Predict Gastric Cancer Survival
SEP 13, 2021
Fat Loss can Predict Gastric Cancer Survival
Cancer cachexia is a metabolic disorder in cancer patients experiencing uncontrolled weight loss.  While cancer cac ...
SEP 22, 2021
Cancer
Whole Genome Sequencing for Cancer Diagnostics
SEP 22, 2021
Whole Genome Sequencing for Cancer Diagnostics
The human genome consists of genetic material known as DNA.  We all have unique DNA sequences made up of four bases ...
OCT 07, 2021
Cancer
Dual Threat: CAR T Cells Modified to Target Two Neuroblastoma Antigens
OCT 07, 2021
Dual Threat: CAR T Cells Modified to Target Two Neuroblastoma Antigens
Neuroblastoma is a cancer of immature nerve cells found in various areas, including the adrenal glands, neck, chest ...
NOV 09, 2021
Microbiology
Can This Cat Parasite Become a Tumor Treatment?
NOV 09, 2021
Can This Cat Parasite Become a Tumor Treatment?
You may have heard of Toxoplasma gondii because it is so common. Cats carry this parasite, and anyone that cleans a litt ...
NOV 29, 2021
Cancer
An Amino Acid Can Improve Radiation Therapy for Metastatic Brain Cancer
NOV 29, 2021
An Amino Acid Can Improve Radiation Therapy for Metastatic Brain Cancer
There are 20 different amino acids that the human body uses to generate proteins.  Amino acids form chains called p ...
JAN 10, 2022
Cancer
Race May Impact Radiation Efficacy in Prostate Cancer Patients
JAN 10, 2022
Race May Impact Radiation Efficacy in Prostate Cancer Patients
Racial disparities exist between Black and White populations in many types of cancer.  Researchers actively investi ...
Loading Comments...