The skin is an amazing organ that gives us insight into many things about our health. We may feel it’s dry and itchy or if it shows signs of aging, But there may be other not-so-obvious clues we can learn that signal attention.
As dermatologists, detecting and treating skin cancer is a central point of our practice. While we encourage patients to schedule a skin exam with a dermatologist, patients play a vital role in protecting their health throughout the year by checking their skin from top to bottom every few months.
On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns, but just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence nearly doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. It is important to note that people of all colors, including brown and black skin, can get skin cancer. Even if you never sunburn, you can still get skin cancer. The good news is that all skin cancers are visible, and when caught early, are highly treatable.
“Knowing” your skin is critical to identify changes. Use a mirror to look at your back and check your hands, feet, and even areas covered by your swimsuit. The American Academy of Dermatology website, AAD.org, has excellent information and videos about doing a “self-check” and recognizing changes on your skin.
If you have a history of sun exposure, tanning bed use, sunburns as a child (or adult), a history of previous skin cancers, numerous moles, or a family history of melanoma, it is critical to check your skin regularly at home for any new or changing skin growths. You should see a dermatologist if you have any new moles over age 40, any moles that are changing shape, size, color, border, symmetry, or itching or bleeding, or any new growths that scab, bleed, or “never seem to heal.”
Please don’t wait to see a dermatologist.
If a suspicious mole or skin changes are present, dermatologists want to evaluate and diagnose those areas as soon as possible. Dermatologists can recognize, remove, and biopsy areas as necessary, and they can also recommend the best ways to prevent further sun damage. Your dermatologist may recommend that you get regular skin cancer screenings if you are at high risk for developing skin cancer. At your appointment, be sure to ask questions and have an honest discussion about your skincare.
Regardless of your “skin history,” commit now to protect yourself. UV exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. Some simple things you can do include:
· Apply sunscreen (SPF of 30 or higher) 30 minutes before going outdoors.
· Limit exposed skin by wearing wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and pants.
· Avoid peak sun exposure from 10 am – 2 pm.
· Wear sunglasses that block UV rays.
· Seek shade whenever possible.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and the American Cancer Society predicts that 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer over their lifetime. More than 9500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the US: including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and Merkel cell carcinoma. Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day. Learn to protect yourself, practice “safe sun,” check your skin regularly, and establish a relationship with your dermatologist! The good news is when caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable!
Naomi Simon, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist
Mooresville Dermatology Center
128 Medical Park Road, Suite 201 Mooresville, NC 28117
Mooresville Dermatology Center is committed to the education detection and treatment of skin cancers and has detected and treated over 7500 skin cancers in the Lake Norman region in just the last four years.