Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.

Farmers and other professionals who spend a lot of time in the sun are prone to skin damage. You might take pride in that “farmer’s tan,” but it increases the risk of skin cancer. You need three simple tools – good clothing, a good hat and good sunscreen – to help keep your skin safe.

Clothing. The more skin you have covered, the better. Look for full-coverage garments that are designed to wick away moisture while shielding your skin from the sun’s rays.

Hat. Avoid hats made of loosely woven straw, as well as baseball caps with the old-school plastic-pinhole backs. The holes in these hats allow sunlight to damage your skin.

Sunscreen. It’s important to look for two things on the label: 1) an SPF of at least 30 (higher isn’t necessarily better) and 2) the phrase “broad spectrum,” which indicates protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. You should wear sunscreen every day, in every season. Although you aren’t likely to get sunburned in the winter, the sun can still damage unprotected skin in other ways that might lead to skin cancer.

How Dangerous Is  Skin Cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer – basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas – are highly curable, but can be disfiguring and costly to treat. Melanoma, the third-most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths.

Spot It, Stop It

Finding skin cancer early is critical for treatment. Caught in its early stages, treatment might be a simple excision performed by a primary care doctor.

To detect skin cancer early, regularly examine your skin head-to-toe and watch for changes. Learn where your moles are and their usual look and feel. Write down the dates of your skin self-exams, and make notes about the way your skin looks on those dates. You may find it helpful to take photos to help check for changes.

Look for ABCDE:

Asymmetry. Half of the mole or spot is unlike the other half.

Border. It has an irregular or undefined border.

Color. The color changes from one area to another.

Diameter. The mole or spot is larger than a pencil eraser.

Evolving. A mole or skin lesion looks different from others or is changing in size, shape or color.

Any one of these signs is reason enough to contact your primary care provider, immediately. It might be nothing serious, but it’s best to let your doctor make that call. Your doctor can decide what action, if any, should be taken.

Dr. Mitch Bartley, D.O., is a family medicine physician at Lake Regional Clinic – Lebanon, Mo. He can be reached at 417-532-2805 or visit


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