Skin Cancer Screening Initiative from AAD: ‘Who's Got Your Back?'

May 3, 2015

In recognition of Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month in May and Melanoma Monday, observed on May 4 this year, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) asks the public to consider “Who’s Got Your Back?” when it comes to applying sunscreen and examining skin for suspicious spots. When it comes to skin cancer prevention and detection, your back should be at the front of your mind, the AAD says. While it’s a hard area of the body to protect with sunscreen, it’s also an important one, as the back is the most common location for melanoma. Research also has shown that thicker melanomas, which can require more advanced treatment, are more frequently found on parts of the body that can’t easily be self-inspected, like the back.

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).

According to the survey, men are twice as likely as women to report that they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking anyone to apply sunscreen to their back (10 percent versus 5 percent, respectively). If no one else were around to provide help with sunscreen, 14 percent of survey respondents would not take any action, like seeking shade or wearing protective clothing, to shield their back from the sun.

“Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the most preventable risk factor for all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma, so don’t leave your back unprotected against the sun’s harmful UV rays,” says board-certified dermatologist Mark Lebwohl, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “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.”

To emphasize the importance of sun protection on the back, the AAD released a “Who’s Got Your Back?” video in conjunction with Melanoma Monday.®

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