Skin protection

Look here to find ways to help spot skin cancer

Want to take steps to help protect your skin? Taking a good look at your skin is a good place to start. Do you see anything unusual? Any changes? 

Knowing how your skin normally looks is the first step to help spot a potential problem. And that’s a good thing. Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Take a good, long look

The key to a good skin check is thoroughness. Inspect your skin on a regular basis. Area by area, look at your:

  • Trunk — front, back and both sides
  • Face, neck, ears and scalp
  • Fingernails, palms, and upper and lower arms
  • Legs, buttocks and genital area
  • Feet, including toenails, soles and between the toes

Some areas, like the scalp, can be difficult to check by yourself. Use a handheld mirror for those hard-to-see areas — or ask a loved one to help you out.

Look for moles that are different or changing — or that itch or bleed. See your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Who’s looking?

Everyone should keep an eye out for skin changes. Fair-skinned people are at higher risk of skin cancer — but anyone can get it.

Let your doctor know if you have any of these risk factors:

  • A large number of moles — or large, flat moles with irregular shapes
  • Past sunburns, especially in childhood
  • A personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Prior artificial sunlight use, such as tanning beds

4 ways to help lower your risk

One of the best ways to help protect against skin cancer is to limit sun exposure. When venturing outdoors, you should:

  1. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Many experts recommend an SPF of 30 or higher. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label.
  2. Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB rays.
  3. Cover up with long sleeves and pants — and choose a hat with a wide brim.
  4. Seek shade on sunny days, especially when the sun is most intense — usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.