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Who’s Got Your Back?

May 20, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Considering that May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection Month, that’s a well-timed question from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Your back is a tough place to protect with sunscreen—which might explain why our backs are the most common location for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Research has also shown that 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 by the Academy, 37 percent of people rarely or never apply sunscreen to their back when it is exposed to the sun, 43 percent rarely or never ask someone else to help them apply sunscreen to their back.

“Before you head outside, it’s important to apply a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or higher to all exposed areas, including the back,” says Mark Lebwohl, M.D, F.A.A.D., president of the Academy. “Since applying sunscreen to your own back can be difficult, it is best to ask for someone else’s help.”

Or, do what one resourceful live-aloner we know does—use a spatula. Get as long a rubberized spatula as you can find (no sharp edges, please; a great big rubber/plastic kitchen spoon also works as does the plastic back of the long-handled scrubber you use in the shower). Lather up the back of the spatula/spoon/scrubber with an even coating of sunscreen and sweep it back and forth across your back and blend as best you can. Reapply as needed. You can reach under and over your shoulders with this method. Even distribution may suffer a bit, but it will most certainly be better than nothing.

--Sarah Hagerty
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What’s Up? does not give medical advice. This material is simply a discussion of current information, trends, and topics. Please seek the advice of a physician before making any changes to your lifestyle or routine.