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Save Your Skin: How to Check It for Changes + 4 Sunbathing Tips

Skin disorders are highly treatable if caught early, hence it’s important to perform self-examination of the skin regularly. Here, Dr. Holly Singletary tells how to check your skin for any changes on your own and gives 4 tips to safe sunbathing.

3 steps to skin self-examination 

It is recommended to take a thorough look at your skin once a month.

Step 1. Try to view the entire surface, even the bottom of the feet and between the toes. 

Step 2. Use a mirror to help identify spots on the back and sides of the body and ask a partner to help identify lesions on the back and back of the legs. 

Step 3. Notice where your moles are and what they look like. If you ever notice anything new, or a lesion that is growing, changing shape, color, texture or size, or if an area will not heal for an extended period of time, notify your doctor. 

ABCDEs of melanoma: what to look for?

We teach patients about the ABCDEs of melanoma to help identify lesions that are clinically suspicious.

  • A is for asymmetrical
  • B stands for the border 
  • C is color 
  • D for diameter
  • E is for evolving 

If moles are asymmetrical, has an irregular border, contains multiple colors, is greater than 6 mm in diameter or is changing or evolving then it has unusual features and is clinically suspicious. 

Some benign lesions may exhibit these features, but it is always best to get evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist if anything concerns you or your partner.  

Depending on a person’s medical history or family history of skin cancer, the presence of many moles or unusual moles, it may be recommended to be seen by a board-certified dermatologist on a regular basis for a comprehensive full body skin exam.

Tips for safe sunbahting

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. It is not recommended to sunbathe, lay out in the sun or be exposed to artificial light such as those emitted from tanning beds. 

I do understand the importance of having an active lifestyle, and I encourage my patients to enjoy the outdoors. 

It is important to take the appropriate precautions in order to protect yourself while doing so.  
  1. When enjoying the outdoors, try to participate in early morning activities or later afternoon/evening hours. 
  2. When outside for an extended time periods try to find shade, wear protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses and long sleeves, preferably clothing with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). 
  3. It is recommended to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily with an SPF of 30 or higher. 
  4. If you know you will be outside for an extending period of time, increase the SPF to a 50 or higher, apply it 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every couple of hours, particularly after sweating or being in water.

Regular skin care and healthy lifestyle choices will help delay aging and prevent various skin issues. 

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