Sun Safety

May 20, 2013

Protect your head and neck from dangers of skin cancer

Gel, soap, toothpaste — time to add one more product to your regular morning routine. Taking care to apply sunscreen to your face, neck and ears shields these areas from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. This reduces your risk for the deadly skin cancer melanoma. Researchers recently found that people with melanoma on their head or neck were nearly twice more likely to die of the disease than those who developed it on their arms or legs.

Cover up to head off damaging rays keep head and neck skin safe by:

  •  Wearing a hat. Skip the baseball cap and choose a hat with a 2- to 3-inch brim all the way around. Or select a shade cap with long fabric flaps.
  • Choosing and using suns creen wisely. Select an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Try cream formulas for the face, and gels for hairy necks and exposed scalps, including bald spots and parts in your hair. Apply to exposed areas 20 to 30 minutes before going outdoors and again every two hours.
  • Taking cover. Avoid being outside too long between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.

Irregular moles can spell trouble

Finding melanoma early increases survival. Check your whole body once a month, including your head, neck and scalp. Ask your partner or a friend to check hard-to-see spots, such as the back of your head. Talk with a doctor if you see moles with:

  • Asymmetry, when one half does not match the other half
  • Border irregularity, or edges that are notched or jagged
  • Color differences, including shades of pink, brown, black, white or blue
  • Diameter of more than 6 millimeters, about the size of a pencil eraser

Also, make regular visits to your doctor or dermatologist if you have:

  • More than 50 moles
  • Large, asymmetrical or unusual moles

A personal or family history of skin cancer To find a primary care doctor or dermatologist who can do a routine skin cancer check, call 1-800-WYAN-DOC (1-800-992-6362) or visit Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.