Although skin cancer is so common in the US, some people are still reluctant to have their skin checked. People are often not aware that when you detect skin cancer early, there is a greater chance for a successful treatment. That is why doctors advise patients to have regular skin checks. However, most people are not sure and wonder, how often should I check for skin cancer?
Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US. This is often due to overexposure to the sun’s UVA rays, which can damage the DNA of the skin cells. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, are the three most common types of skin cancer. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer because it can quickly spread to other parts of the body.
Why You Need to Have Your Skin Checked
Performing thorough skin checks on a regular basis is advisable because tumours sometimes do not exhibit the symptoms normally expected. A skin check will, therefore, alert you to potentially suspicious spots so that you can begin treatment. The earlier you detect skin cancer, the more successful treatment is likely to be.
Skin cancer may start out as a harmless looking spot on the skin. It’s very important to take note of any new spots or identify any changes in the size, shape, or colour of spots already on the skin.
What Does a Skin Check Involve?
A skin check is a simple procedure that takes about 15 minutes to perform, and completely safe and painless. The doctor will carry out a total body check, and closely examine your skin to see if there’s anything that does not look right. All areas of the body will be looked at, even places that are less visible like the soles of the feet. The skin is usually examined using a dermascope, which is a specialized hand-held microscope.
How Often Should I Check for Skin Cancer?
Generally, people at risk for skin cancer should have skin examinations done by a trained medical practitioner at least once per year. Those most at risk for skin cancer include individuals that have had skin cancer previously, or have a family history of the disease. Also, people that spend a lot of time outdoors, get sunburnt easily, have fair skin, or used tanning beds in the past are also at risk.
Ideally, skin checks should be with a board-certified dermatologist, or a skin cancer specialist.
People that are not at risk for skin cancer don’t have to have regular skin checks done. However, they should do self-examinations, and consult their doctor if they notice any unusual spots on their skin.
Since skin cancer can develop quickly, doctors urge patients to do their own examination every 3 months or so. People should get to know their skin and be aware of what’s normal, so that they can quickly spot any changes. If any unusual moles or spots appear, it’s important to have them checked as soon as possible.
Keep the Skin Safe and Protected
In addition to having regular skin checks, it’s also essential to keep your skin safe and protected. Consistent use of sunscreen is an important component of skin protection, with a broad spectrum sunscreen that contains 30 SPF. It’s also a good idea to limit the time spent outside in the sun. For example, avoid direct sunlight during the hours of 10am to 4pm. This is the time of day when the rays of the sun are strongest.