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Protecting Your Skin This Summer: Things To Look For
What's Normal, What's Not?
Should you have crow's feet at 25? Is a chocolate-chip-sized mole something to be worried about? The advice given in the following expert guide will tell you that, and what to do about it. Be sure to take the SKIN CANCER TEST that saved 66 Glamor Magazine readers lives!!!
Dermatologist Dr. Darell Rigel, M.D., hears the following from his female patients numerous times every day: "Excuse me...is this spot, bump, lump or line normal?" The New York University Dermatologist loves to be asked this question. He says it shows young women are paying attention to their skin, and because it shows "the overwhelming majority of things young women point out end up to be nothing to worry about, or are easily fixed," he said. 31,690 women were diagnosed with skin cancer last year. Women under 40 are almost twice as likely to get the potentially deadly cancer (melanoma) - as men. The number of young women diagnosed with another type of cancer- basal cell carcinoma, has more than doubled over the past 30 years. Doctors say you should talk to a dermatologist about any spots, marks or moles that do not seem right. The information in the following article can help you figure out just how quick to make that call.
Woman With Freckles
What's Normal: A handful of little dots splashed across your cheeks, nose and/or chest. A real freckle is made up of one solid shade of light or dark brown, and has a very clear boarder. Normal freckles are located in areas that are regularly exposed to daylight, says Dr. Rigel, "and for some young women, they'll fade away on their own once your out of the sun."
What's Not Normal: Having a lot of freckles closely focused on one area of your body. This indicates an overdose of dangerous UV rays. Check your upper back and shoulders especially close: "People who have marked freckling on these areas tend to have been intensely exposed to the sun at one point or another," he says. A woman's risk for skin cancer, (melanoma) doubles if she has had five or more sunburns in her life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Also, any spot larger than the size of a pencil eraser raises a red flag, especially if it's extra dark: Melanomas can appear as large, flat, almost black-black-marks. "Protect yourself with sunscreen on all exposed skin every single day," says Hema Sundaram, M.D., a Washington, D.C.-based dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon.
What's Normal: A healthy mole is all one color. It can be light or dark brown, or even reddish pink-with a clear, symmetrical boarder.
What's Not Normal: Weird coloring. "If a mole is red, white and bluish, it isn't being patriotic-it's most likely skin cancer," warns Dr. Rigel. Show your doctor any bump that is more than one color-especially if one of those colors is black. "A blue-black coloring means a mole is lodged deep in the layers of your skin, and that could be a bad sign," he says. Pay special attention to weird moles on your calves or torso, which are the most common areas women tend to get melanoma.
Your Rough Spots
What's Normal: Temporarily red, swollen or itchy skin. This usually indicates a good old-fashioned case of eczema or dermatitis. (two common skin conditions that can usually be treated with topical creams) "Try applying an over-the-counter one-percent hydro-cortisone cream for a few days," says Dr. Rigel. "If it clears up, chances are it was one of these skin conditions and you're fine."
What's Not Normal: Anything that has a fine, sand-papery feel or is sort of crusty. A spot like this that is on your face, scalp, lips, back of your hands, forearms, neck or shoulders could be an abnormal growth called actinic keratosis (AK) Having an AK means you are at higher risk of developing skin cancer-and in some cases the spots themselves can even turn into cancers. "A day doesn't go by that I don't see a woman with one of these," says Dr. Rigel. "Twenty years ago, I never saw a female patient in her twenties with an AK.-usually it was women in their forties. Now I do all the time, and I believe it's because twenty-somethings have been frying themselves in the sun and on tanning beds."
Your Chest Wrinkles
What's Normal: Vertical lines in the cleavage area after age forty are normal effects of aging. (no matter what your cup size)
What's Not Normal: Any wrinkling in your twenties or thirties, like the wrinkling stated above, is considered abnormal, says Ellen Marmur, M.D., chief of dermatologist and cosmetic plastic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and the author of Simple Skin Beauty states. Just like premature facial lines, having crinkly, lined skin on your chest before forty means you have gotten way too much sun-and that you may be at increased risk for skin cancer. Using sunscreen every day will help prevent future damage, and exfoliation and moisturizing can help smooth skin. Although if you are looking for dramatic improvements, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon will have to help you. Laser-like treatments done by a licensed dermatologist or plastic surgeon can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and may treat precancerous conditions like AK, says Dr. Marmur
What's Normal: Having them! 35-50% of women in their twenties or thirties still get zits. According to one survey,26% of women in their forties still get them
What's Not Normal: A pimple that does not go away within a month could actually be a precancerous growth. Pay special attention to spots on your nose. "One third of all skin cancers happen there," says Dr. Rigel.
Do you get pimples?
Spots Around Your Mouth
What''s Normal: Occasional lip dryness or peeling-especially during windy spring months, or dry winter months. If you apply a moisturizing lip balm like Aquaphor and the dryness goes away after a few days, there is no need for concern.
What's Not Normal: Dry white marks or cracks on your lower lip, especially if you smoke. This could be a type of precancer called Actinic Cheilitis, (AC) which can be caused by sun damage, cigarettes or both. "Often an AC is found on the lower lip in the exact spot where a cigarette rests," says Dr. Rigel. Also pay attention to any white patches on your gums, inner cheeks, the bottom of your mouth or your tongue that feel hardened or thick and will not easily come off-these could be precancers called Leukoplakia.
Lines on Your Neck
What's Normal: A very light horizontal crease or two in your thirties, becoming slightly more defined in your forties.
What's Not Normal: Deeper lines can be a sign of sun damage, which obviously puts you at higher risk for skin cancer. Having bad posture and being overweight are common causes of these creases also. Sunscreen and moisturizer can help; also try not to crunch your neck while reading, working or Black-Berrying: "That hunched-over position can create more lines," Dr. Marmur says.
Bumps on Your Scalp
What's Normal: The occasional crusty spot or flaky lump. These bumps are often piles of dead skin cells or product buildup. Try a clarifying or dandruff shampoo for two weeks and see if it clears up, says Dr. Marmur
What's Not Normal: A zit-or molelike lump that does not go away and may be itchy. Melanoma can and does occur on the scalp, but it is a location often overlooked by women and even doctors during skin checks. Surprisingly, cancers on the scalp tend to be more deadly than those on other parts of the body, usually because they are found late. "Most crusty like spots on your scalp are OK, but if they're itchy, growing, bleeding or changing, get to a dermatologist," says Dr. Rigel.
Marks on Your Hands and Feet
What's Normal: Freckling or moles; and even teeny-tiny black dots. Some African American women get black dots about the size of the tip of a pencil on their palms or soles of their feet-they're not a cause for worry, says Dr. Rigel. "They aren't freckles-they're called dermatosis papulosa nigra, or DPN. We're not sure what causes them, but they're totally innocuous, and are very common."
What's Not Normal: A brown or black bruise under the thumbnail or big toe-nail-especially if it gets bigger, spreads to the cuticle or doesn't go away completely in two months. It may be a type of skin cancer called subungual melanoma. In fact, any mark on the palms or soles of your feet that's larger than a small dot should be checked out.
What's Normal: A mark that starts off red-and then fades to white or tan with time. Lumpy, raised, pink, red or skin colored scars are technically considered "abnormal," but they are not dangerous. They are called keloids, and they can result from just about any injury including ear piercing, burns, cuts or even vaccinations. "If the scars really bother you, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon can freeze or laser them off," says Dr. Rigel.
What's Not Normal: Scars that become crusty or just don't look right or seem to heal. In rare instances, scar tissue can actually turn into basal cell carcinoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.