Becoming Comfortable in Your Own Skin!  

Why skincare must matter to first responders

By Sam DiGiovanna  |   Jun 11, 2019

There’s a beauty about getting older—you become more comfortable in your own skin. The need for approval diminishes, you’re more confident in life and you can speak your mind without the fear of rejection.

But if you want to stay comfortable in your own skin as you age, you need to protecting it properly!

Consider this scenario: You put your gear in your unit and ready to hit the streets. Before the day gets rolling, the commander reviews some department policies at briefing. He also reminds us that starting next shift, we begin active shooter training at the local high school for several days. Looks like it’s going to be another long, hot summer.

With that briefing, we’re ready to start our day, right? Wrong. We forgot to cover the importance of protecting our skin. Summertime skin exposure, both on and off duty, is a hazard we often forget about or fail to treat seriously.

“Exposure” is a common word in Public Safety. Our body armor helps keep us protected from gunfire. Our policies keep us safe, while protecting us from the exposure that arises from poor performance or conduct unbecoming. 

Unfortunately, we pay little attention to sun exposure and its connection to skin cancer. Police officers have a higher risk of skin cancer than the general public. We also tend to be diagnosed with melanoma younger than the general population.

The risk of skin cancer is likely higher for police officers for two reasons: We spend a lot of time outside, often without taking precautions such as wearing long pants and sunblock. In and out of the vehicle during traffic stops, directing traffic at accidents or barricaded suspects keeps us exposed in the sun.

What can we do to reduce the risk of skin cancer? Fortunately, it’s relatively simple:

  • Whenever possible while working outside, position yourself in shaded or covered areas. This includes training, cleaning equipment, and conducting extended operations at incidents.
  • Wear sunblock every day. Use one that’s at least SPF 15. Apply sunscreen daily to your face, arms and hands (and your head if appropriate). If you’ll be working outside in shorts, remember to protect your legs too.
  • Cover up. While sunblock is effective, you need to remember to put it on and reapply periodically. It’s often easier to use clothing to provide protection. Hats (some offer neck coverings), long sleeves and pants often block rays as well as sunscreen. If you choose lightweight, quick-drying fabrics that breathe, you may feel less hot wearing long sleeves and pants than you would in a tank top and shorts.
  • Make your equipment works for and protects you. Your neck and head are prime areas for exposure.
  • Monitor your skin for changes that can indicate skin cancer. You should perform frequent self-skin exams and visit your doctor regularly for full-body skin checks.

Conclusion

Although first responders face unique exposure for skin cancer, we can also reduce our risk through behavioral changes and increased awareness. And with summer upon us, there’s never been a better time to start! 

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Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. He also is a consultant for Lexipol Fire Services.
Sam DiGiovanna

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