Check and protect yourself from skin cancer
More skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year than all other cancers combined. However, when found and treated early, skin cancer can usually be cured.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
That makes it the perfect time to become familiar with the following tips, which will help you protect yourself against developing skin cancer and teach you how to check for early signs.
Four tips to check your skin for cancer
- Do a skin check: Examine your skin using full-length and hand-held mirrors. The American Cancer Society (ACA) has step-by-step instructions, and use this handy skin exam infographic to help remember the key areas to check.
- Check regularly: Monthly self-exams are recommended. This can help you find many skin cancers early, when they are easier to treat. Recommended skin cancer screenings are also covered under all U-M health plans, with no out-of-pocket cost when performed as part of a preventive care visit.
- Know your skin: Be aware of your normal pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes and other marks on your skin so that you’ll notice any changes next time. Download UMSkinCheck to store a photographic library of your skin cancer self-exams. Developed by Michigan Medicine, this free mobile app also helps you track moles/lesions and locate a skin cancer specialist.
- Know your ABCDEs: Skin cancers can show up in many shapes and sizes. The ABCDE rule is one way to identify if your mole or mark might be skin cancer. If you have concerns about your skin, talk to your doctor.
Five ways to protect your skin
- Seek the shade: This is especially important between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV light is strongest.
- Cover up: When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, pants or long skirts to cover the most skin.
- Use sunscreen: Choose a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. If you are enrolled in U-M’s health care flexible spending account, over-the-counter sunscreen products with SPF 15 or higher are considered eligible medical expenses.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses: Your ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp are often exposed to intense sun. The U-M vision plan covers sun tinting of plastic lenses, gradient tints and glass gray #3 prescription sunglasses. Prescription sunglasses are also an eligible medical expense in U-M’s health care flexible spending account.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths: Tanning beds that give out UVA and/or UVB rays have been linked with an increased risk of melanoma.