Skin cancer
Skin Health

Skin Cancer: Who's Got Your Back?

According to a news release from the American Academy of Dermatologists, your back should be at the front of your mind when it comes to skin cancer detection and prevention.

The back is a hard area to protect, but it’s crucial to do so, because, the AAD says, it’s the most common site for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Research has found that thicker melanomas, which can require stronger treatment, are more often found on parts of the body that it’s not easy to self-inspect.

And, according to a 2015 online survey conducted by the AAD, 37 percent of people rarely or never apply sunscreen to their back when it’s exposed to the sun, and 43 percent rarely or never ask someone else to help them apply sunscreen to their back. Men are more likely than women to rarely or never apply sunscreen to their back (40 percent versus 33 percent, respectively) and to rarely or never ask someone else for help (47 percent versus 40 percent, respectively).

Those numbers need to change, experts say.

“Before you head outside, it’s important to apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or higher to all exposed skin, including the back,” said board-certified dermatologist Mark Lebwohl, MD, FAAD, president of the Academy. “Since applying sunscreen to your own back can be difficult, it’s best to ask for someone else’s help. Find someone you’re comfortable with — like a significant other, friend or relative — and ask them to apply sunscreen to your back. Or even better, stay in the shade and wear clothing that covers your back.”

The experts say that people also need a partner to look at their back. The survey indicates that people are less vigilant about checking their back than the rest of their skin. Just 36 percent of survey respondents said they examine their back for signs of skin cancer at least once a year, and only 35 percent ask someone else to help them inspect hard-to-see areas.

“Everyone should regularly examine their skin for signs of skin cancer,” Dr. Lebwohl says. “If you notice any spots that are different from the others, or anything that’s changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.”

To emphasize the importance of sun protection on the back, the Academy released a “Who’s Got Your Back?” video; click here to view.

For more information about how to prevent and detect skin cancer, including instructions on how to perform a skin self-exam, visit the Academy website There, you can download a body mole map for tracking changes in your skin and find free SPOTme® skin cancer screenings in your area. SPOT Skin Cancer™ is the Academy’s campaign to create a world without skin cancer through public awareness, community outreach programs and services, and advocacy that promote the prevention, detection and care of skin cancer.


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