According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer remains the most prominent form of cancer in the U.S., affecting millions of Americans each year. There are multiple types of skin cancer, differing in their causes, symptoms, and severity. The two most common kinds, basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), are usually easy to identify and remove by a trained dermatologist. Melanoma, while less common than BCCs and SCCs, is typically more dangerous than the latter two because it can be more difficult to detect early on, and it tends to spread much faster.
Regardless of the type, being aware of the early signs of skin cancer is vital to maintaining one’s overall health and preventing its spread throughout the body. But how can you keep your skin and body in check? What should you look for, exactly? And what difference does early detection actually make in keeping skin cancer at bay? Let’s discuss how regular screenings can help you prevent melanoma and other skin cancers.
A skin cancer screening refers to a visual inspection of one’s entire body with the aim of detecting skin cancer signs or risk factors. A basic screening can be performed on your own or by a healthcare professional. When inspecting yourself, you’ll want to be in front of a full-body mirror and have a secondary mirror on hand to check areas you wouldn’t normally be able to see, such as the back of your neck or behind your ears.
During this examination, you or your doctor should look for cues such as:
After examining the parts of your body that are already exposed (stomach, neck, face, legs, etc.), you’ll want to check locations that are partially covered as well, such as underneath your arms, the soles of your feet, the spaces between your toes, and parts of the scalp that are underneath hair. Women should examine the skin underneath their breasts as well.
The purpose of getting routine skin cancer screenings is to keep tabs on any bodily changes that might point to early stages of skin cancer. Detecting these warning signs early will allow you to more effectively and easily prevent or treat any type of skin cancer. If your doctor comes across any red flags, they may perform additional tests, such as a biopsy, epiluminescence microscopy, or dermoscopy to further inspect your skin and deliver a proper diagnosis.
Checking yourself on a regular basis is important, but there’s always the chance that you might miss something or misread a cue. That’s why it’s so important to not only give yourself screenings, but also receive screenings from a medical professional.
As for how often you should have these screenings done, it depends on your skin type, family history, personal medical history, exposure to the sun, and additional factors. Those with lighter skin, for instance, are at greater risk for developing skin cancer than those with darker skin.
Other skin cancer risk factors include:
Your doctor or dermatologist will help determine how often you should receive skin cancer screenings based on factors like the ones mentioned above.
Receiving regular skin cancer screenings is an important part of preventing skin cancer, but there are also many other ways to decrease your risk of receiving a skin cancer prognosis or diagnosis. Some simple steps include: