A melanoma scar on a person's back is framed by rays of sunlight.

Protecting Your Whole Body from the Sun

Does anyone recall the expression “farmer’s tan?” I remember my childhood friends referring to someone who had a sunburn on the lower parts of their arms having this kind of a tan. I am not sure how this phrase originated, but my guess is that farmers have been known to wear short sleeve shirts while working their sun-drenched fields and only their forearms and hands were exposed.

Not everyone takes their whole body into account

Whether it be the uncovered arms of outdoor laborers or the faces of goggled alpine skiers, it’s pretty apparent when people only partly protect themselves from the sun’s damaging ultra violet rays. I think this also applies to anyone who spends a great amount of time outdoors recreating. Hikers, hunters, golfers, wildlife photographers: beware. Unless we wear full body suits (and who does that?) we do leave parts of our body exposed and may not even realize it.

Here are some places of the body that we may not be considering in both skin cancer prevention and diagnosis:

Forearms

While we are on the topic of driving, who hasn’t rested their left forearm on the open-windowed doorframe of their car during the warm months? I know that I certainly have. I think it looks pretty cool and keeps me cool, as well. I think my left forearm gets a lot more sun than other parts of my body and the sweat and wind can affect my sunscreen protection.

Ears and neck

I love my baseball hats, but some of my worst burns came while wearing them. They simply do not protect the sides and back of my head, including my ears. I lather this area in sunscreen, but my head tends to sweat the most and will affect its effectiveness. Broad-brimmed hats are much better and many have SPF ratings. Oh, and don’t forget the bucket hat. While it’s brim is not particularly wide, it is making a fashion comeback.

Scalp

Visor and mesh-crowned baseball cap wearers beware. They do a great job at shading one’s eyes from the sun, but the scalp of one’s head is exposed. This is especially true for those with thinning hair. Golf, tennis, fishing and hunting hats have notoriously left people “out in the sun” when it comes to good skin care practices.

Hands

The tops of our hands are particularly vulnerable since very few clothing items actually cover them (I prefer not to wear gloves during the summer). I remember to put sunscreen on the tops of my hands in the morning, but with all the hand washing these days it is easy to forget that my protection just went down the drain. My hands are exposed a lot particularly when I am driving.

Feet

Flip flops and sandals look super cool, but offer little in the way of protection. I have seen many a foot with burn lines on them. I try to apply and reapply sunscreen to this area often especially if I am around sand or water. Sunburned feet are terrible when you put your shoes on!

A note about toe and finger nails. Subungual melanoma is a form of skin cancer found in the nail bed.

Lips

Lips do get sun and even the thickest SPF sun balm can come off with eating, drinking and lip licking. I like to keep sunscreen for my lips handy at all time. They come in some great flavors (and bad ones, too!)

It's fair game

I have come to realize that my whole body is fair game for sun exposure. If I can see it, then I need to think about protecting it. So, I’m off to shop for my Dodgers bucket hat!

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