Skin cancer is the most serious threat to our skin, but it’s also a huge threat to our overall health. Early detection and medical intervention are necessary for surviving this life-threatening condition.
When dermatologists talk about skin cancer, it’s done very seriously, with an emphasis on the worst case scenarios. This isn’t just to scare you, it’s to instill how important it is to always be on the lookout for signs of cancer. Skin cancer is primarily a direct result of sun damage. Sustaining several blistering sunburns throughout your lifetime can make it 50% more likely that you develop skin cancer in the future. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to use sunscreen at all times when you’re outdoors and stay out of the sun as much as possible.
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells mutate and begin to replicate at an accelerated rate. Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight causes this mutation by damaging the actual DNA in your skin. When the DNA repairs itself, it can sometimes make an error. This error or mutation is cancer. This lesion or tumor spreads and can impact internal organs. There are many types of skin cancer, but the three most common forms are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly form of cancer because it spreads the quickest. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, but it is rarely fatal because lesions don’t usually metastasize like melanoma. That doesn’t mean BCC can’t spread; it can, and it can still be deadly. Don’t take any skin cancers lightly. They are all bad news, but fortunately there’s a lot that can be done about them.
A skin cancer screening is a comprehensive exam conducted by a dermatologist. During this visit, you will generally strip to your underwear, and though you may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s necessary. Your dermatologist will sometimes use a small magnifying glass to look at problem areas on your skin if they identify one. They pay close attention to areas that are hard for you to see, like the back, scalp, and buttocks. This is a comprehensive visual exam, so it can take a little bit of time in the office. If your dermatologist were to find a lesion or other concerning patch of skin, they may perform a biopsy. This involves removing a small sample of the skin and sending it to a lab for testing.
These screenings should be at the foundation of your skincare routine. But how often should you really be seeing your dermatologist for a screening like this? Generally, doctors recommend that this exam be conducted yearly for people of all ages and skin types. If you’ve had skin cancer before or are at high risk from past exposure to sun damage, the recommended number of visits may go up. As you age, your likelihood of developing skin cancer increases, simply because you have more years of possible sun exposure. Sometimes you may visit your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening twice yearly or even quarterly. It all depends on your history and specific skincare needs. It all boils down to this: the bare minimum, for anyone, should be one skin cancer screening with a dermatologist per year.
Skin cancer screenings are one of the best ways to ensure that you detect skin cancer early on, or before it even becomes skin cancer. Schedule your skin cancer screening today with the professionals at Northeast Dermatology Associates.
York, ME / Portland, ME - Now Open! / Beverly, MA / Burlington, MA / Gloucester, MA / Haverhill, MA / Hopkinton, MA / Newburyport, MA / North Andover, MA - Mass Ave / North Andover, MA - Turnpike / Marblehead, MA / Salem, MA / Bedford, NH / Concord, NH / Dover, NH / Exeter, NH / Londonderry, NH / Manchester, NH / Portsmouth, NH