Body Scan for Skin Cancer Awareness

Were you like I was in my teens and twenties? A sun worshiper chasing a great tan? I would lay out from 11 – 2, lathered in baby oil, to get the optimum sun exposure.  Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, no one ever talked about ultra-violet rays, skin cancer, or eye sensitivity.   It was all about the deepest, darkest tan.  I was all over it, even with my pale, white natural skin.

And how do I view that past behavior today? Ugh. I know I am a walking time bomb for skin cancer.  I mean, one doesn’t escape retribution after enduring a million sunburns and a very bad case of sun poisoning. Add to that the fact that my mother and her father both had melanoma which automatically puts me in a higher risk category because melanoma can be hereditary.

As a mid-lifer, I have totally changed my outlook and behavior regarding the sun and my body.  For one, I gave up tanning years a go and turned to tanning lotion instead.  These lotions have vastly improved from the days where you turned out looking like a pumpkin.   And I have gotten the applying down to a science. My favorite tanning lotion is Neutrogena’s build-a-tan gradual sunless lotion.  I have used it the past three years. Two and a half bottles get me from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Next, I make sure that the make-up I use has an SPF of at least 15.  I love bareMinerals foundation.  It is so light and it protects too. Also make sure whatever body lotion you are using has SPF 30. Applying this regularly throughout the day to hands, neck, and arms helps to prevent sun damage to these ever exposed areas.

Lastly, I get an annual body scan from my dermatologist.  This was recommended for me to do by my mother’s doctor after my mom had her second bout of melanoma. A body scan is where a dermatologist visually reviews you entire skin surface looking for any abnormalities.  No area is left unchecked including the scalp, ear lobes, in between appendages, and on the bottom of feet.  With her trained eye, the dermatologist will determine if there are any issues that need further testing and make recommendations.

I had this year’s body scan this past week. The doctor found two areas of concern: on my cheek and near my knee.  For the scaly patch on my cheek, she sprayed a frozen gas on the affected spot.  Man, did that sting and it continued to sting for several hours.  A scab is forming but it is no big deal; nothing a little extra make-up can’t take care of.

My leg was a different story.  The doctor showed me how this growth is receiving its own blood supply which is a cause for concern.  She decided to take a biopsy to rule out a malignancy. To prepare the area for the biopsy, she first numbed it with a Novocaine-type medicine.  She inserted a very sharp and very tiny needle several times around the spot.  Ouch.  When the area was numb, she then used a hole-punch type tool to quickly grab a small tissue sample. That part wasn’t so bad because I couldn’t feel anything. The sample was sent to the lab for testing and I should hear back within a week with the results.

As I was leaving, the nurse handed me some tips for overall sun protection:

1) Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin, including lips, even on cloudy days.
2) Reapply sunscreen frequently.
3) Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
4) Sit in the shade whenever possible.
5) Wear protective, tightly-woven clothing.
6) Plan outdoor activities early or late in the day to avoid peak sunlight hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
7) Indoor tanning is just as bad for your skin as sunlight.  Most tanning salons use ultraviolet-A bulbs and studies have shown that UVA rays go deeper in to the skin and contribute to premature wrinkling and skin cancer.
With the return of daylight savings, it means more time for more sun exposure.  Being proactive is your best insurance against wrinkling or even more important, skin cancer.
Have you had to deal with this issue? What steps are you taking/



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