Screening for skin cancer is a type of preventative care that helps detect areas of concern that may turn into cancer or spread to other areas of the body. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone have a full-body professional skin examination performed by a dermatologist at least once a year, and sooner if they have a history of skin cancer. Screening should start in your 20s or 30s, however, if you have a family history of cancer or spend a lot of time in the sun, it may be beneficial to start earlier. When you arrive at the clinic, you should expect to change into a gown, and will have a detailed examination of the whole body. It is helpful to not wear makeup and to keep your hair loose, as it can possibly hinder the quality of the exam. Your provider may take a photo of a suspicious area, in order to help monitor over time. It is recommended to do a self skin exam about every three months. Some helpful tips for doing a self skin exam include using a mirror or a friend to help see difficult areas, making sure to check in your hair and other hard to see areas like the back of your legs. It is important to mentally note or take a photo of a suspicious spot, that way you can monitor if it is changing over time. You can use the ABCDEF’s of melanoma:
- A: Asymmetry: Does one half of the spot match the other half?
- B: Border: Is the border irregular?
- C: Color: Does the color vary throughout the spot of concern?
- D: Diameter: Is the spot of concern > 6mm?
- E: Evolving: Has the area of concern changed recently in size, shape or color?
- F: Family History: Do you have a family history of skin cancer or melanoma?
If any of these are true, you should make an appointment with your primary care provider or a dermatologist for a professional evaluation.
This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.
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