The Importance of Routine Skin Exams
With the prevalence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers on the rise, it is more important than ever to make sure you are getting routine complete skin exams done by your dermatologist. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has also listed some interesting statistics. These include; an estimated 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and by 2015, it is estimated that 1 in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime. It is known that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light increases the risk for development of all types of skin cancers. We get so much incidental and purposeful sun exposure in Florida and if we combine that with the use of tanning beds, it makes it more apparent that routine checks need to be done.
Skin exams for men and women should be done at home as well as in the office. For women, it is easy to do a skin exam at the same time you are doing the recommended monthly breast exams at home. We all have hard to see places so getting someone at home to keep an eye on lesions on the back and scalp will aid in noting if anything is new or changing.
What to look for during skin exams:
Many people have heard of the ADCDE’s of melanoma, but some haven’t, so here they are with explanations.
A-asymmetry- if you can’t put a mirror in the middle and the lesion looks the same on both sides it is suspicious
B-borders- we like them to be nice smooth round edges, nothing jutting out on the side or jagged like the edges of a stamp
C-Color- whether the lesions are very dark themselves or if there is any color variation makes lesions concerning
D-diameter- should be preferably smaller than the end of a pencil eraser. This does not mean all small lesions are ok, melanoma has been known to be as small as the tip of a pen.
E- evolution- or change in any characteristic
If you have not had a skin exam done in the past, you may not know what to expect. At most offices you are asked to remove clothing and put on a gown to cover up. Your skin will be looked at from head to toe and it is important to have the genital area looked at as well. Some people decline this part of the exam, but keep in mind skin cancers and abnormal moles do not just appear in sun exposed areas. They can occur anywhere. It is recommended to have exams done in the office every 6 months to 1 year. Depending on your history of skin cancer, number of moles or amount of sun exposure, the recommended interval may vary. Make sure to call your local dermatology office to schedule your exam today.
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