Who Should Get a Skin Cancer Screening and How Often?

After so much isolation during the global pandemic, you’re probably ready to get outside. Perhaps you’re planning a summer trip to the beach or simply going to enjoy time at the neighborhood pool. 

The sun’s rays make you feel good, and your body makes essential vitamin D from being exposed to sunlight. 

But too much sun exposure over a period of time can cause skin cancer. The number of people who are diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious and potentially deadly form of skin cancer, has steadily increased in recent years. That’s why skin cancer screening is so important. 

Our board-certified dermatologists at Seacoast Dermatology do full-body screenings that provide the reassurance you need that your skin is in good health. If we do find something suspicious, your regular screenings means that the abnormal cells likely haven’t had time to spread, so we can remove any skin cancer cells before they’re a threat to your health.  

How often should I get screened for skin cancer? 

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, bringing more awareness of skin cancer to the general public. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone get screened for skin cancer once a year and more frequently if you’re at increased risk for skin cancer. 

What happens during a skin cancer screening? 

We examine your skin from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. You can’t easily see the top of your head or the area at the back of your neck and behind the ears. It’s also difficult for you to see your back. We use a magnifying device if we see something suspicious. 

If there is a questionable mole or spot on your skin, we biopsy it by taking a small sample of cells from the area and sending it to a lab. 

When we get the results, we call you to let you know whether the spot is cancerous. If it is, we make a follow-up appointment for you and explain the best type of minor surgery to eliminate the abnormal cells. 

Who’s at increased risk for skin cancer? 

Skin cancer is easy to miss because it usually doesn’t cause any pain. Following are circumstances that increase your skin cancer risk. 

Fair skin and/or red hair 

If your skin is very fair and your skin burns quickly when exposed to sun, you’re more at risk for skin cancer than the general population. 

Why take the chance? Use high protective factor suntan lotion and wear a hat and sun-protective clothing if you must work or be in the sun for long periods of time. Better yet, try to stay out of the sun. 

Sunburns

Did you know that getting a sunburn is the root cause of most cases of skin cancer? Even if you have dark skin and usually tan without burning, you can get skin cancer from too much sun. 

Think twice before going out without sunscreen with a high protective factor. Just one intense sunburn when you’re young increases your risk of melanoma in adulthood. Repeated exposure to the sun over your lifetime can alter a gene that suppresses tumors so that damaged cells are more likely to become cancerous. 

Indoor and outdoor tanning 

Stay away from tanning beds. A tanning bed session before you’re 35 years old increases your risk of melanoma by 75%. When your skin tans, although it looks healthy, it actually means your skin cells are damaged.  

Moles  

Is your skin populated with lots of moles? Are some of them asymmetrical? While they may be seen as beauty marks, they actually place you at greater risk for melanoma than people without as many moles. 

Call or book an appointment online today with our team at Seacoast Dermatology. Our offices are located in Portsmouth, Dover, and Exeter, New Hampshire.

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