Skin Cancer: What Made You Get Checked Out for Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a pervasive condition. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 20% of all Americans will experience some form of skin cancer by the time they reach 70 years of age. Though these numbers may be alarming, there is a silver lining in that most skin cancer cases are highly treatable and curable, especially when detected early on. As such, it’s crucial to receive a skin cancer screening on a fairly regular basis and/or whenever you’re concerned about potential warning signs. Here we’ll discuss which factors, signs, events, and concerns justify a trip to the dermatologist regarding skin cancer.
Personal Risk Factors
Though skin cancer can affect anyone, it’s more common in those with certain risk factors. These risk factors include age (the older you are, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer), fair skin and hair (genetics and family history), a compromised immune system (pre-existing conditions), personal history with skin cancer, prolonged exposure to sunlight (lifestyle), and the presence of many moles. While none of these risk factors guarantees that you’ll develop skin cancer, they should warrant more frequent skin cancer check-ups as a precautionary measure.
Abnormal Moles (ABCDE)
As mentioned above, a significant presence of moles on your skin puts you at greater risk of skin cancer – melanoma in particular. The number of moles isn’t the only thing to look for, however. You must also consider the appearance of each and every mole on your body. Simply put, abnormal moles are potential signs of skin cancer. Dermatologists use the “ABCDE” method for identifying potentially problematic moles: A stands for asymmetry, B for border (i.e., is it clearly outlined or blurry?), C for color (is the color consistent throughout?), D for diameter (is it larger than the size of a pencil eraser?), and E for evolution (is it changing at all over time?). It’s crucial to keep an eye on your own moles to check for these warning signs. You should also pay a visit to your dermatologist periodically for a more comprehensive mole check-up (they can perform biopsies on specific moles to check for skin cancer).
Bumps, Sores, and Other Anomalies
Melanoma isn’t the only type of skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancers include squamous, basal, and merkel cell carcinomas, which appear as various types of bumps, sores, and other anomalies. These carcinomas can resemble scabs, scars, and other skin problems, so it’s important to have them checked early on to either rule out or confirm skin cancer. Most non-melanoma skin cancers are relatively easy to remove when treated at their early stages, though they can return over time, so it pays to remain vigilant.
Various Questions or Concerns
There’s never a bad time to check in with a skin cancer dermatologist, even if you don’t notice any visible warning signs. Get checked for skin cancer whenever you have relevant questions or concerns – at the very least, you’ll gain some peace of mind knowing that your body is free and clear; at most, you’ll detect skin cancer before it becomes a serious problem. In this way, getting checked on a whim is a win-win. And while you’re there, your dermatologist can teach you how to check for skin cancer on your own time and help you develop a schedule for regular screenings if necessary.
The Time Is Right
Speaking of schedules, how often should you check for skin cancer, anyway? Once again, you can never check yourself for skin cancer warning signs too often. It doesn’t hurt to receive frequent professional screenings either, though you probably won’t want to venture to a doctor’s office all the time (this can be time-consuming and costly, depending on your insurance). The happy medium, then, is to talk to your dermatologist about your particular risk factors so you can determine how regularly you should come in to receive a skin cancer check. Annual visits usually provide a good rule of thumb for most people, though if you’re considered low-risk, your dermatologist might tell you to get checked once every couple of years; higher-risk individuals may benefit from getting checked at least twice a year (usually six months apart).
Staying on top of skin cancer screenings is one of the best things you can do for your skin and overall health. If you have any questions or concerns regarding skin cancer and risk factors, the experts at Premier Dermatology Partners are always here to help. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.