May is skin cancer awareness month, so now is the perfect time to pay some extra attention to your skin’s health. And this means scheduling a mole evaluation with your dermatologist. Early detection is key when it comes to skin cancer, and these routine screenings can catch the early signs of the disease. Here’s what you should know.
The short answer? Everyone. Dermatologists recommend that patients schedule annual skin cancer screenings. However, they may want to see you more often if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer.
Some of the most common skin cancer risk factors include:
A family history of skin cancer
A personal history of skin cancer
Blonde or red hair
Blue or green eyes
And of course, exposure to UV rays is the number one risk factor for skin cancer. Sun exposure and artificial tanning put everyone at risk for skin cancer, so it’s critical to be honest with your dermatologist about your sun protection habits.
You might consider doing a quick skin check before your mole evaluation appointment. Look for any new or changing moles that you might want to show the dermatologist. While you certainly can’t diagnose skin cancer moles at home, it’s great to get in the habit of checking your skin.
Skin cancer screenings typically last about 10 minutes, but your dermatologist will ask you some general questions about your health before the screening begins. This is a chance to discuss your risk factors and skin concerns.
Once the screening begins, your dermatologist will check every area of your skin for signs of skin cancer. This will include hard-to-see areas like the scalp and between the toes. They may use a magnifying device to examine moles and other areas of the skin.
If your dermatologist has any concerns about certain spots, they may take a biopsy. The biopsy will show if any of the skin spots are cancerous. If the biopsy comes back positive, your dermatologist will recommend treatment like mole removal. If it comes back negative, they may want to see you back for another screening before the one-year mark.
Remember: skin cancer prevention and regular screenings are central to managing your skin’s health. Between screenings, be sure to avoid sun exposure by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. Swapping your tanning sessions for self-tanner or regular spray tans can help you maintain a glow without UV exposure.
And, of course, check your skin regularly and call your dermatologist about any changes. You can play a role in early detection.
This skin cancer awareness month, the team at Pacific Dermatology Specialists is proud to offer comprehensive skin cancer screenings for our patients. Our dermatologists are also here to educate our patients about skin cancer risks and prevention, so you can make informed choices about your skin health. We have locations in Downey, CA, and other communities in the Greater Los Angeles area. Contact us today to schedule your skin cancer check.