Spotting Skin Cancer
Think you're not at risk? You may be ignoring the signs.
Simple Ways to Lower Your Risk
According to Steven Pearlman, MD, a clinical associate professor of
dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, taking
precautions is easy. "Get out of the sun," he says, "or protect
yourself with clothing and sunblock." Ninety percent of skin cancer is
caused by getting too much sun exposure. If you have to be outdoors, experts
recommend avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is
strongest and, if possible, wearing tightly woven clothing so that the sun's
rays can't sneak through.
Of course, the best way to prevent skin cancer is to stay indoors, but you
can enjoy a few rays by putting the lotion in motion. Always wear sunblock with
a minimum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 on exposed skin if you're going to
be outside for more than 15 or 20 minutes, whether it's sunny or not. The
ultraviolet rays that damage your skin can easily pass through clouds when it's
A suntan may make you look good, but enough unprotected exposure to change
your skin color can add to your risk of cancer. Even tanning beds should be
Prevention and early detection go hand in hand. Remember to check your skin
on a regular basis for any new or suspicious changes. Look for waxy spots that
crust or bleed, or for a mound of tissue or wounded skin that just won't heal.
And don't wait for your doctor to notice, like J.T. did. If you see something
new or strange, get it checked out. Grilled cheese belongs on your plate, not
on your nose.
Michael Alvear is an Atlanta-based writer. Besides WebMD and other
publications, his work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times and the
Internet magazine Salon.