Why is it Important to Have an Annual Skin Cancer Screening?
by: Your Best Self Team
Have you noticed a suspicious-looking or non-healing spot on your skin? If so, do not ignore it. You should see a dermatology practitioner as soon as possible to examine the area for skin cancer. It is important that both men and women have a full body skin exam once a year, or sooner if you have any areas of concern. Patients with a personal or family history of skin cancer such as melanoma are seen more often such as every three months. So your risk factors will guide how often your skin should be checked.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) begin to grow uncontrollably. This can lead to DNA mutations resulting in cancer. There are four main types of skin cancer, including:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): This form of skin cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of basal cells. It is most commonly caused by intermittent, intense exposure and long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): SCC is caused by the uncontrolled growth of squamous cells. Long-term exposure to UV radiation is the main cause.
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC): MCC is a rare but aggressive form of skin cancer. It is often associated with a virus called the Merkel cell polyomavirus. This form of skin cancer is most common in fair-skinned people over the age of 50.
Melanoma: Melanoma is a dangerous skin cancer that forms from melanocytes. It is often caused by intense, intermittent sun exposure that causes sunburn, and can be related to genetics (family history). Tanning beds also increase your risk for melanoma.
Why is Skin Cancer Screening Important?
In order to ensure that your skin is healthy or to detect skin cancer early on, it is recommended that patients see a dermatology specialist once a year for a full professional skin exam. During your skin cancer screening, you will put on a medical exam gown, and your dermatology practitioner will carefully check your skin from scalp to toe to ensure that there are no suspicious-looking lesions. The screening usually takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.
If your doctor does detect any suspicious spots, they may recommend or perform a biopsy for microscopic exam to make a diagnosis to determine if any further treatment may be needed. This means that a part of, or the whole, lesion will be removed to be sent to a lab for testing. Early detection of skin cancer is important for the least invasive treatment, so be sure to check your skin at home for changing lesions too!
Tips to Make the Most of your Screening
There are some steps that you can take to make the most of your appointment. These include:
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