How Often Should You Be Seen for Skin Cancer Prevention?

Doctor looking at a mole How Often Should You Be Seen for Skin Cancer Prevention?

Skin cancer is a very serious, sometimes fatal disease affecting one in five Americans, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. However, not only can it oftentimes be prevented, but with early detection, it can usually be treated before it becomes deadly. This is why knowing what to look for is so important – as is getting an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening.

Best Steps for Skin Cancer Prevention

Educate Yourself About Skin Cancer

Most people associate skin cancer with suspicious-looking moles, and for good reason – new and changing moles are common early signs of skin cancer. But skin cancer symptoms can present in a variety of ways, so it’s crucial to know what to look for.

You should regularly conduct a thorough self examination in the shower – ideally getting a friend or family member to check your back, neck, ears, and scalp. Look for new moles or spots as well as existing ones that have changed in color, shape, size, or border. If you have a mole that is the size of a pencil eraser in diameter or larger, you should get it checked by a dermatologist as soon as possible.

Types of Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, usually appearing as small bumps or growths that can often look like moles on the top layer of the skin. BCC rarely spreads beyond the affected area, but if left untreated, it can spread to tissue and bone.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) affects different skin cells than BCC and is found in the middle and top layers of the skin. SCC can spread to other parts of the body, like lymph nodes, potentially causing serious or fatal health complications. SCC usually presents as hard red bumps or nodules on the skin. Sometimes, these nodules may become crusty or ooze from the center.

Finally, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It affects the melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin’s pigmentation. For many, melanoma appears as a strange or unusual mole or a change in an existing mole. Melanoma that’s left untreated will spread to other organs, becoming fatal.

Take Prevention Seriously

If you have a personal or family history of any of these types of skin cancer, it's critical that you get a skin cancer screening at your dermatologist’s office at least annually, if not every six months. Individuals with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and red or blonde hair, as well as those who burn easily in the sun, are more at risk than others.

Since all three of these types of skin cancer can be caused by overexposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays, you want to make sure to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible and always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher when outdoors. On a daily basis, it’s a good idea to choose products like moisturizers that have SPF 30 or higher in them, even if you spend most of your time indoors. Of course, avoiding tanning beds and booths is a must.

Contact Vanguard Dermatology

Besides your frequent self-exams, getting a skin cancer screening is a must for anyone – especially those at high risk of developing the disease. Contact Vanguard Dermatology today for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists in the greater New York City area. We can conduct a skin cancer screening and ensure your skin is its healthiest.

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