When was the last time you saw a dermatologist? We’re pretty sure most people don’t know or perhaps have never stepped foot inside a dermatologist’s office; however, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, and more than two people die every hour in the US from skin cancer. This is why everyone needs to visit their dermatologist for regular skin exams and skin cancer screenings.
What should I expect from a skin cancer screening?
There is nothing uncomfortable, painful, or invasive about a skin cancer screening. This can be a relief to know and may even make someone more likely to come in for the screening they need. A skin cancer screening involves a simple, non-invasive visual examination that is performed by a qualified dermatologist. Your skin doctor will examine all growths, moles, and birthmarks to check for any changes in shape, color, size, or texture that could be warning signs of cancer.
Just as with any health screening, a skin cancer screening can help your dermatologist detect skin cancer during the very early stages when it’s highly treatable. If your dermatologist does detect a suspicious growth, they may recommend a biopsy. A biopsy simply means that your dermatologist will remove a small amount of tissue from the area to test for cancer cells.
Who should get a skin cancer screening?
Everyone can benefit from a skin cancer screening; however, certain risk factors can increase your odds of developing skin cancer over your lifetime. It’s important to know your risk level so you can talk with your dermatologist about how often you should come in for screenings. Those at increased risk may need to come in more than once a year. These risk factors include,
- Being fair-skinned
- Having blonde or red hair
- Light eyes
- Skin that burns or freckles easily
- A history of sunburns
- Family history of skin cancer
- Extensive sun exposure (e.g. working outdoors)
If it’s been more than a year since your last skin cancer screening you must schedule your exam with a dermatologist as soon as possible. While wearing sunscreen and protecting your skin from the sun can certainly help, it’s still necessary to see a dermatologist at least once a year.