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About the Author

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Mary Mills Barrow

My name is Mary Mills Barrow. I’m a wife and mother of three, a full-time writer and sun protection activist. I studied in the United States and in Australia and it was in Australia that I first became aware of the problems caused by unprotected exposure to the sun. (Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.) When I returned to the U.S. with my entrepreneurial husband, I was horrified at the epidemic of preventable skin cancer here.

With my husband, I co-authored “Sun Protection For Life: Your Guide To A Lifetime Of Healthy & Beautiful Skin” (New Harbinger Publications). Although certainly not a best seller, the book provides the framework for skin cancer prevention and detection habits and introduced the acronym “SunAWARE” which was later endorsed by a number of not-for-profit organizations working in the field including the Dermatology Nurses Association, the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation, and The Melanoma International Foundation. The book also won our first Gold Triangle award from the American Academy of Dermatology.

In addition to “Sun Protection for Life,” I’ve written two books aimed at children and teens which incorporate the SunAWARE acronym and will help educate young people about the importance of beginning good sun protection habits early in life. These books won the Gold Triangle Award from the American Academy of Dermatology this year.

In the meantime, my husband and I founded Coolibar, a sun protective clothing company. Although I am no longer active in the running of the company, I believe Coolibar offers the best sun protective clothing on the market today and I will occasionally discuss its products, although always with the caveat that I do have an interest in the company. In that spirit, I’ll mention that Coolibar was just awarded the Seal of Recognition for its clothing from the American Academy of Dermatology, the first sun protective clothing company to be so recognized.

Currently, I’m working with a variety of organizations, including the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation to develop classroom lessons for each of the five steps in the SunAware acronym.

The Author's web site

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Self Exam:  Proactive Approach to Skin Cancer Detection

Taking a proactive approach in monitoring your skin for potential skin cancers - especially if you are in a high risk group - is an essential step in complete sun safety habits. Descriptions of how to conduct a self-examination are readily available on the web, however, we thought we would post this essential information as a New Year's reminder to routinely check your skin.

Thanks to website SkinCancerNet for the following images.
Conducting the Skin Examination
To conduct a skin examination you will need: a full-length mirror, a hand-held mirror, privacy, pen or pencil and a mole map available for downloading at SkinCancerNet. Then follow these five easy steps.

Five Step Self Examination
• Stand in front of the mirror. Examine your body front and back, then on the right and left sides with your arms raised. Women should look under their breasts. (It helps to have a partner assist with the self-examination.)
•Next, bend your elbows and examine forearms, upper underarms and palms.
•Next, look at the back of your legs and feet. Look at the spaces between your toes and the soles of your feet. Remember, it's important to examine your whole body, not just the areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun. Skin cancer can occur anywhere.
•Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand-held mirror. Part your hair to examine the entire scalp.
•Check your back and buttocks with the hand-held mirror.

The mole map helps you keep a record of current moles, blemishes and other marks for reference in future self-examinations. Fill it out and keep it with important documents.

What to Look For
Becoming familiar with the moles, blemishes and birthmarks on your skin will enable you to detect changes in them. Look for changes in size, color, shape and texture.

Specific warning signs include:
•A mole that is different from the rest. A mole that itches or bleeds or that changes in any way.
•A sore that never fully heals.
•Translucent growth with rolled edges.
•A brown or black streak beneath a nail.
•Cluster of slow-growing shiny pink or red lesions.
•Waxy feeling scar.
•Depressed lesion that feels hard to the touch.

If you find any suspicious lesions, immediately call your dermatologist and TELL him or her why you are calling. In some areas of the country, it takes months to get an appointment. Communicate your urgency. In most cases, skin cancer can be successfully treated, but left too long, they can result in death.

Finally, dermatologists have developed a simple set of rules describing suspicious lesions they call the ABCDEs of melanoma. The Skin Cancer Foundation posts these on their website along with pictures describing the skin condition.

Be proactive in your skin care. Routinely examine your skin. Be SunAWARE and Be Safe!

 

 

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