In the U.S., no type of cancer is more common than skin cancer. On a positive note, skin cancer is also one of the most treatable forms of cancer, especially when detected early on. This early detection and prevention depends on regular skin cancer screenings. But how often should you be seen by a dermatologist for skin cancer prevention, exactly? The answer to this question varies depending on multiple factors, which we’ll explore below.
Irregular moles are the most revealing signs of skin cancer (melanoma, in particular). The most common type of skin cancer screening is a mole evaluation, which can be performed by oneself or with the aid of another (ideally a dermatologist). When examining your moles, it’s important to follow the “ABCDE” rubric for melanoma. Each letter of this device corresponds to warning signs to look for in your moles: A = asymmetry, B = border (i.e., undefined or irregular), C = color (variable throughout the mole), D = diameter (larger than a pea or pencil eraser), and E = evolution (whether the mole has changed in any way).
There’s no limit to how often these screenings can occur, but for practical purposes, mole evaluations are usually recommended once a year or once every two years -- the exception, of course, is if you notice the appearance of a new mole or something irregular about an existing mole. Even if these signs don’t point to skin cancer, it’s worth seeing a dermatologist just to make sure.
The frequency with which you should be seen for skin cancer prevention is contingent on several personal factors, including your age, lifestyle, and family medical history. Older individuals are at higher risk of skin cancer, as are those who spend more time outdoors and/or use tanning beds. Even if you’re young and do your best to avoid excessive UV exposure, you might be more susceptible to developing skin cancer due to your genetics. These hereditary skin cancer risk factors include fair skin/light hair/light eyes, freckles, several moles (atypical mole syndrome), a compromised immune system, and a family history of skin cancer. If you fall into one or more of these categories, your dermatologist may recommend receiving skin cancer screenings at least once a year (in some cases, twice annually or more).
No matter your particular risk factors, receiving a skin cancer screening once a year is a good rule of thumb to follow, especially if you’re over the age of 30 (though it’s never too early to get checked for skin cancer and take prevention seriously). If it helps, think of skin cancer check-ups the same way you think about annual physical examinations -- scheduling them in advance and making a yearly habit of it will help you get it over with and, best of all, stay on top of your skin’s health.
Everyone’s skin is different. So, while most people benefit from annual skin cancer screenings, your dermatologist might suggest more or less frequent check-ins. As such, it’s important to discuss these matters and any skin-related concerns with your dermatologist to come up with the right strategy for you. At Premier Dermatology Partners, we help patients take more control over their skin’s health and appearance with information, resources, and personalized care. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.