Take Care of Your Skin – To Your Health by Lori Stambaugh, RN BSN, Community Educator

Taking care of the largest organ in your body is about more than just avoiding age spots and wrinkles. While the appearance of your skin can affect how you feel about yourself, it can also be an indication of an underlying condition.

If you notice a change in your skin, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Many common skin problems, such as rashes, hives, and contact dermatitis, can be resolved with a visit to your provider. While not all skin changes are caused by skin cancer, it’s important to get them checked out since early detection offers a better chance at successfully treating it.

Your skin plays an important role in your overall health. Your skin protects germs from entering your body and helps regulate body temperature. It also plays a role in keeping our immune system healthy and permits the sensations of touch,heat, and cold. Your skin consists of about 300 million cells, making up about 15% of your body weight.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with 5 million people receiving skin cancer treatment each year. It is important to see your provider yearly, for a skin check and also to perform monthly skin checks at home. The American Academy of Dermatology offers a simple way to remember what to look for when you are checking your skin:

A is for Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the mole, the two halves will not match.

B is for Border: The edges are jagged, irregular or blurred.

C is for Color: The color or pigmentation is not uniform and/or has varying shades of tan, brown, or black, or may also sometimes appear blue, white, or red.

D is for Diameter: The size of the mole is greater than 1/4 inch (6mm)—the same size as a pencil eraser.

E is for Evolving: Over time, the mole changes shape, color, size, etc.

Prevention, along with regular skin checks, is the best way to fight skin cancers. When you’re in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Be sure and re-apply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating a lot. Always wear clothes that protect you from ultraviolet rays, as well as sunglasses with UV protection. Stay out of tanning beds and try to avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the UV index is the highest.

Talk to your provider about your personal risk for skin cancer and discuss with him/her how often you should receive regular skin screenings. For more information about skin cancer, visit the HCMC website at www.hcmc-tn.org.Want some free sunscreen and an info sheet? Call us at 731-644-3463 to get some free in the mail.