May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which means it’s time to get your annual skin check. What? You don’t get an annual skin check? Well, you should! Skin cancer is the United State’s most prevalent cancer, with more than two million Americans diagnosed each year. As a matter of fact, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
At Manhattan Dermatology, we recognize the risk of skin cancer and encourage all of our patients to get an annual skin check. By seeing your dermatologist once a year, you can prevent skin cancer and get an early diagnosis if something does develop. These annual checks are even more important for those with a history of tanning, sunburns, or skin cancer and we often recommend these patients thoroughly check their skin at least once a month at home.
Understanding annual skin checks
While your family doctor most likely does a skin check during your annual physical, a skin check by a board-certified dermatologist is much more thorough and comprehensive. Our doctors study your skin and identify any new moles, growths, or other changes that could indicate abnormalities. We often use a special light to highlight any irregularities, ensuring that your back and other hard-to-see body areas are carefully assessed for signs of skin cancer.
Knowing the signs of skin cancer
The most common types of skin cancer include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas and they often develop as small red nodules or scaly patches. These patches or spots may be raised or ooze and they bleed easily.
In most cases, basal cell carcinomas look like a brown scar or flesh-toned lesion or sore. Squamous cell carcinoma forms as a rough-textured lump on your skin. Although these growths are sometimes mistaken as a skin rash, they tend to grow slowly and don’t go away on their own.
Melanomas are a more dangerous, but less common, form of skin cancer and often look like abnormal moles. You identify melanoma by the ABCDEs:
- Asymmetry: Melanomas aren't perfectly round
- Borders: They have uneven, bumpy borders
- Color: Melanomas are mottled and may appear red, blue, or black
- Diameter: These cancers lesions are generally larger than a pencil eraser
- Evolving: Melanoma change over time, getting bigger or changing shape or color
While annual skin checks are important, you can also check your skin each month at home. If you notice any new moles, growths, or changes, be sure to call your dermatologist for an evaluation.
Scheduling a skin check when you see something suspicious
As soon as you see something suspicious, whether it’s a new mole, a changing mole, or another skin growth, you should make an appointment right away at Manhattan Dermatology or your local dermatology office. Your doctor examines your skin and may take a biopsy to test for any skin irregularities for cancerous or precancerous cells.
In cases where your skin growth is cancerous, we offer a variety of removal procedures including excision, cryotherapy, and Mohs surgery, a delicate excision procedure where the growth or mole is removed one layer at a time to reduce trauma and damage to your surrounding healthy tissue.
Preventing skin cancer
Although some people have a naturally higher risk of developing skin cancer, the condition can be prevented and you can protect your skin. The most important thing you can do is reduce your exposure to the harmful UV rays in sunlight by wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and a wide brim hat while outdoors. You should reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. For those with fair skin, we recommend staying indoors while the sun’s at its peak between 10 am and 4 pm.
Even though you might like the look of a tan, tanning beds and lights should be avoided. Tanned skin is often the first sign of sun damage. Instead of putting your skin at risk, use alternative artificial tanning products to replicate a sun-kissed glow without the damaging effects of sunlight.
And don’t forget to schedule your annual skin check. May’s a great month to do it! Schedule an appointment today by calling the practice or using the online booking tool.