About 20% of Americans will eventually develop skin cancer within their lifetime. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, but if discovered early, it can be treated successfully. Getting a regular skin cancer screening is a major step that can save your life.
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Why It’s Important To Have Regular Skin Check Ups
Here are some reasons it’s necessary to get regular skin cancer check-ups:
- Skin cancer is treatable if detected early.
If you regularly get skin cancer check-ups, there’s a big chance that a skin cancer lesion will be caught in an early and treatable stage. Certain skin cancer, if left untreated, can lead to death. Around 18 000 deaths in the U.S. are due to untreated skin cancer.
- Skin cancer might appear anywhere.
Skin cancer can appear anywhere; that’s why you should always check your moles and other skin areas for changes that can mean a cancerous lesion. It can appear even in areas of the skin that are not visible. It’s possible to have skin cancer even in areas of your skin that were never exposed to sunlight. It must also be noted that skin cancer can develop on normal skin and not just on a mole.
- Anyone can get skin cancer.
In the U.S., more than five million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, making it the most common type of cancer. Even if you consider yourself at low risk because you religiously use skin protection or you have a darker skin tone, it’s still possible to get skin cancer. It can also be genetic.
- The risk of getting skin cancer increases every year.
You can be diagnosed with skin cancer at any age. However, the older you get, the more you are susceptible to sun-induced skin cancers like BCC and SCC. This is because sun damage starts at birth and accumulates as you age.
- You can discuss your other skin issues.
During a skin cancer check-up, you can also consult your dermatologist about other skin concerns. If you currently have rashes, discoloration, acne, or other skin issues, your dermatologist can take a look at them and create an effective treatment plan for you.
When You Should Get A Skin Cancer Check-up And How Often
There’s no universal age for getting skin cancer check-ups. You can start regularly getting yourself checked as early as you want. Annual skin cancer check-ups are necessary if you happen to experience any of the following:
- You’ve previously used tanning beds
- You have red or blond hair, light eye color, and your skin easily freckles or sunburns
- You have a history of melanoma in the family
- You’ve had sunburns that blister
- You’ve had an organ transplant
- You’ve had unusual moles
- You have over 50 moles
If you’ve previously had basal or squamous cell cancer, you should see your dermatologist twice a year.
Most dermatologists will do a baseline check first and then recommend how often you should get a skin cancer check.
How To Prepare For A Skin Cancer Screening
There are several steps you can take to ensure that the procedure will go smoothly.
First, you should take a long and thorough look over your skin before your check-up so you can identify any spots or areas that seem odd. It’s important to check every part of your skin, including your scalp, under your arms, behind your ears, and even between your buttocks. Using a hand mirror or a full-length one will make this step easier.
Then, you should take note of any moles that are new, itchy, or have changed in appearance over time. Inform your doctor about everything you’ve observed.
While preparing for your check-up, make sure to remove all your makeup, jewelry, as well as braces, bandages, or any object that might be covering the skin.
How It Is Done
A skin cancer screening is generally a simple and quick process. Before starting, you will be asked to take off your clothes and wear a medical exam gown. The dermatologist will visually examine every area of your skin. The entire process usually lasts for 5-15 minutes if everything looks good. Depending on your history, the doctor might be more thorough. Your skin, from the top of your scalp to the bottoms of your feet, will be examined and checked for suspicious marks and spots that could be cancerous. Doctors check the “ABCDEs” of each mole: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color, Diameter, and Evolving.
If the dermatologist finds a spot that could be precancerous or cancerous, a picture will be taken for your medical chart. A skin biopsy will also be performed, and the doctor will share the results with you once available.
How To Prevent Skin Cancer
You can prevent skin cancer by wearing sunblock with at least 30 SPF or sun protection factor wherever you go outside. You should also try to stay out of the sun when it’s the strongest, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Wearing protective clothing like sunglasses, a hat, and a long-sleeved shirt will also help.
You can book a skin cancer screening with Team Dermatology whenever you’re ready.