Local News

Regular Skin Checks Can Help Save Lives

Posted May 29, 2001

— Before hitting the beach this summer, it is important to take a moment and check out your skin. Doing so could save your life.

Lots of people spend countless hours baking in the sun's rays, but that pleasure has a price. This year, more than 10,000 people will die from melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.

Some people are more at risk than others. For them, proper sun protection and regular skin checks arethe best line of defense.

"If you are fair complected or have afamily historyof skin cancer, you first need to know what to look for and then probably, an annual skin examination is necessary," says Dr. Robert Clark of the Cary Skin Center.

Clark performs thousands of skin checks each year. The checks involve a thorough exam of every inch of skin -- looking for moles that are changing in size, color, and shape. A skin check also involves patient education -- teaching them to look for signs of trouble.

"Get a full-length mirror and hand mirror, maybe have a companion look at the back or areas that are difficult to see, and keep a mental note of what the moles look like," he says.

Melanomas and other skin cancers are not caused by just one blistering sunburn. While that does increase your chances, health experts say it is really cumulative. Over time, daily sun exposure adds up, no matter what your skin type.

Even areas of the body that do not get much sun can fall victim to skin cancer. You can expect your doctor to inspect your scalp, the bottoms of your feet, and even your nails during a skin check.

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