Wake up! It’s time to accept that skin cancer is a big issue in Arizona. In the “Valley of the Sun” we welcome almost 365 days of sun but it certainly puts a beat down on our skin. This year the American Cancer Society expects Arizona to see thousands of new skin cancer diagnoses. The alarming increase of skin cancer even suggests that Arizona has the highest rate in the United States.

No one expects you to stay indoors but you should be prepared for your next outing; no matter if it’s a quick trip to the grocery store or a few hours in the pool, sun can do major damage in as little as 20 minutes. So, the best thing to do is be prepared.

Check yourself. Become a profiler of your own skin. Give yourself a weekly once over and inspect your entire body (not just areas that see sunlight). Look for moles with changes in color, size, shape and texture. Sometimes the problem areas aren’t the obvious dark-colored moles, so be on the lookout for small patches that resemble scratches, flesh-colored or firm bumps. Bottom line — if it’s new or worries you make an appointment with your provider.

Be smart. Prevention doesn’t just come in the form of SPF. While you should always be lathering up with a minimum of SPF 30, you can also invest in some sun protective clothing and try to steer clear of the hottest time of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Also, get the lowdown on your family history; sun isn’t the only cause of cancer, genetics can play a role, too. If you know skin cancer runs in your family you should take all the precautions available.

Get treated. Early cancer detection can save your life. People always say they didn’t call because they were afraid it was nothing and a waste of our time – that’s never true, we care about your health, so schedule an appointment.

Patients always ask what I tell my family and friends. So, here they are, my parting words when it comes to sun protection:

• Don’t use tanning beds.

• Priming your skin before you apply makeup can help give you that airbrushed look.

• Invest in clothes with built in sun protection.

• Not sure if you should be outside, abide by the shadow rule. If your shadow is shorter than you seek shade.

• Sarah Neumann, MMS-PA-C, has been practicing dermatology PA for 10 years. Her practice, Ahwatukee Skin and Laser, is located in Ahwatukee Foothills at 4425 E. Agave Road, Building 9, Suite 148. Reach her at (480) 704-7546 or visit www.ahwatukeeskincare.com.

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