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When it comes to skin cancer prevention, who has your back?

Riddle Hospital May 6, 2015 General Wellness

got your back sun protectionWhen it comes to protecting yourself from skin cancer, many people seem to be adopting the policy of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

A new survey sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology finds that 43 percent of those polled rarely or never asked anyone to help apply sunscreen to their backs.

“Our backs are a prime area for skin damage. During the summer, when people are at the beach or working outside with so many parts of their shoulders and backs exposed, this is an especially vulnerable area,” explains Arthur Balin, MD, dermatologist at Riddle Hospital.

But the survey’s findings don’t stop there. In addition to being less likely to apply sunscreen, it also found that men and women are less likely to check their back during regular self-checks for melanoma and other skin cancer signifiers.

“Coupled together, these two factors can be very dangerous. Not only are people less likely to protect their backs, but they’re also less likely to monitor their skin in that area for any notable changes,” says Dr. Balin.

With 73,000 cases of melanoma—the most deadly form of skin cancer—diagnosed each year, and an additional 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell diagnosed annually, Dr. Balin urges men and women to begin giving their backs the attention they deserve when it comes to skin cancer prevention and detection.

This summer, instead of shrugging off sunscreen, ask someone to help you apply sunscreen lotion or spray to your entire back and shoulders. Although some might be uncomfortable asking someone to help them apply sunscreen, consider the risk you take by not applying it. Indeed, the American Academy of Dermatology survey also found that men, in particular, were not as willing to ask for help when it came to applying sunscreen.

“The importance of wearing sunscreen far outweighs the embarrassment you might feel by asking someone to help you apply sunscreen,” says Dr. Balin.

Remember, you don’t have to be at the beach to need sunscreen. If you’ll be out in the sun for more than a 20 minutes, whether it be gardening, a bike ride, or simply sitting outside, play it safe and apply sunscreen.

In addition to wearing sunscreen, be sure to conduct regular skin cancer self-checks throughout the year. Monitor every area of your skin, but particularly those exposed to the sun, for changes in texture, color, or landscape of your skin. If you notice a change, make an appointment with your primary care physician or dermatologist.

If it's been awhile since you've scanned your skin, sign up for an upcoming skin cancer screening at a Main Line Health hospital. For a full list of screening dates, times and locations, visit our events calendar.