Why protect your neck and chest from the sun?
The prevalence of skin cancers is on the rise and affects the areas of the body not covered on a daily basis: the head and neck, hands and arms.
If you’re over 40 and an avid outdoor enthusiast or worker, lifelong golfer or tennis player, you may have already experienced precancers, skin cancers or you know, someone who has. It is imperative to have a skilled clinician evaluate your skin for precancers and skin cancers, especially those areas difficult for you, or your mate to see such as the scalp, behind and in the ears and back of the neck.
In January 2022, there was a heartwarming story of a premed student who recognized a large irregular mole on the neck of the assistant equipment manager of the hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, Brian Hamilton. Her astute observation and willingness to be bold enough to tell a stranger of a professional sports team that he had a suspicious mole on his neck probably saved his life.
The back, sides and front of the neck are frequently exposed to the sun, especially the neck and scalp of men. Most men sport a short hair style (or have thinning hair), wear baseball caps and uncollared shirts. The skin changes that occur on the neck include thinning of the skin which causes the capillaries to be more prominent, giving one that ‘red neck’ appearance, the medical term is poikiloderma. With chronic sun exposure the back of the neck develops deep polygonal wrinkles called cutis rhomboidalis.
The worst case scenario is the development of skin cancers. Basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas often occur on the head and neck as do melanomas. The treatment required is local surgical excision to make sure the entire lesion is removed. There is danger in not treating squamous cell carcinomas in a timely fashion as they can become large and aggressive leading to possible internal spread. Melanomas on the neck are very serious. If they grow to a certain depth, they can easily spread to the neck’s lymphatic system and other organs in the body. Hence, Brian Hamilton was spared this fate since the premedical student/hockey fan urged him to see a doctor.
Bottom line, if you spend many hours in the sun regularly or if you’re prone to getting sunburned, wearing UPF 50 sun protective accessories, such as the NeckBlock sun cover may reduce your risk. Don’t forget to cover your head and hands!