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The Body Part That’s Especially Vulnerable to Skin Cancer


Neglect your back and feel the burn: People tend to ignore their backside before baking in the sun , finds a new survey from the American Academy of Dermatology. 

Researchers discovered that 40 percent of male respondents rarely or never apply sunscreen to their exposed backs before stepping outside. 

Unfortunately, that area is the most common spot for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

“No one can apply sunscreen there without help,” says Ali Hendi, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Georgetown University. 

It’s a two-pronged problem: Your arms are physically unable to reach every area on your back, and your eyes can’t scope it out well enough to check for any weird-looking moles or other spots. 

That makes early detection difficult. In fact, the survey found only 1 in 3 adults admit to checking their backs for something suspicious at least once a year.

“Not knowing what’s on your back can lead to skin cancer not being diagnosed at its earliest stages, when it’s curable,” says Dr. Hendi.

The Top 10 Cancer Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore 

And men are less likely to get their moles checked than women, says Dr. Hendi. So when guys do develop melanoma, they’re more likely to die from it since their cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage.

Your best bet is to avoid scorching in the sun when UV rays are the strongest, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. But if you do go out, enlist a buddy to block your back 15 to 20 minutes before you head outside. The good news: You don’t have to ask for a backrub—spray sunscreen makes those awkward massages unnecessary. 

Just be sure you apply two even coats of an SPF 30-caliber block with broad-spectrum protection, meaning it shields you from UVA and UVB rays. And if your skin is particularly pale, try a block that contains micronized zinc or titanium as a main ingredient.

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