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"How can I tell if a mole on my back is dangerous?"

Skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the United States and 90% of all skin cancers can be attributed to the sun. Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer, occurs rarely in childhood but is the most common form of cancer among young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer among adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.

These are the warning signs for melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: one half of the spot does not match the other half.
  • Border irregularity: Normal moles are round or oval. The borders of a melanoma may be uneven or notched.
  • Color: Common moles are usually one color throughout. Melanomas may have several colors or an irregular pattern of colors.
  • Diameter: common moles are generally less than 1/4 inch in diameter (the diameter of a pencil eraser). Melanomas are often larger.

It is a good idea to watch any mole carefully. The most important warning sign is a change in any of the characteristics listed above.

If you have a suspicious mole, schedule an appointment with an SHS provider . They will examine it for you and perform a biopsy if necessary.

For more information, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation.

"I know I should wear sunscreen but I never know how much to put on. How much do you recommend?"

Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher provides good defense against the sun's UV rays. Apply at least 1 oz. (approx. a full shot glass) 15-20 minutes before going outdoors and be sure to reapply as necessary, especially after swimming, perspiring heavily, or toweling off.

You should also cover up as often as possible with protective clothing when out in the sun. Choose comfortable clothes made of tightly woven fabrics you can't see through when held up to a light. It is also a good idea to cover your head with a wide brim hat, shading your face, neck, and ears. If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your face, ears, and neck with sunscreen. Wrap-around sunglasses with 99-100% UV absorption provide the best protection for the eyes and surrounding skin.

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