05 Apr When Was Your Last Mole Check?
Anyone can be diagnosed with skin cancer, and in the U.S. there are more people diagnosed with skin cancer than any other cancer type. According to the American Cancer Society, about 20 percent of Americans will have some form of skin cancer in their lifetime, but the good news is that it is wholly preventable. The best way to prevent skin cancer, or start treatment as soon as possible, is with an annual “mole check.” Spectrum Dermatology encourages everyone to schedule this quick and easy yearly check right now.
There are different types of skin cancer, with melanoma being the deadliest. In the U.S., melanoma kills one person every hour. However, it is quick and easy to cure when it’s caught early, just like any other type of skin cancer. Skin cancer that is still localized or in its early stage simply requires an in-office excision or removal. A pathologist checks to make sure the borders of the excision are all “clear” from skin cancer, and that’s all that is needed.
Types of Skin Cancer
Melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, though it is quite prevalent. The most common types are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). About 80 percent of all skin cancers are BCC. SCC is more likely than other skin cancers to spread to organs besides the skin, but this typically only occurs in later stages.
All types of skin cancer are most often caused by unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This includes both the sun and artificial exposure such as indoor tanning. UV damage is cumulative, so it adds up during one’s lifetime. However, there is a link between people who have had at least five serious sunburns in their life and melanoma. Overall, the message is clear: if you want to reduce your risk of all types of skin cancer, start taking better precautions today to protect your skin.
At-Home Mole Checks
Nothing compares to an annual mole check by a dermatologist. The vast majority of people are recommended to have one check per year (though you may require more if you have a history of skin cancer). You can help keep up with your skin health in between appointments by keeping an eye on your moles. Following the ABCDEs of moles is a great way to combat skin cancer and catch it early.
A healthy mole is symmetrical, so an asymmetrical (A) mole is a red flag. Healthy moles have clear borders (B). The color (C) of a healthy mole is usually uniform. A healthy mole’s diameter (D) is no larger than a pencil head eraser. Finally, a healthy mole usually doesn’t evolve (E) much over time. If possible, get a mole check buddy—someone you trust who you can “swap” mole checks with you every month or so. This ensures you can track moles that are difficult to see, such as those on your scalp or back.
Better Protection from Skin Cancer Now
Unfortunately, most people aren’t actually following best practices for sun/UV protection. Did you know that you need to re-apply sunscreen every 75 minutes? Or that it’s best to apply most sunscreens 30 minutes before you’re actually in the sun? Do you forget that the window that’s near your desk is actually exposing you to UV rays during the day—windows, unless they are specially tinted, provide no sun protection.
Not all sunscreens are created equally, either. You need a broadband sunscreen with at least an SPF of 35 for ultimate protection. Medical-grade sunscreens, such as those available at your dermatologist, perform better than what you might find for sale at the store. When it comes to sunscreen, this is not the time to let price alone drive your decision. There are a number of medical-grade sunscreens that are both affordable and provide the protection you deserve.
Skin Cancer Prevention
If you can’t recall the last time you had a mole check from a dermatologist, schedule yours today. This is the number-one way to keep your skin safe and catch skin cancer as soon as possible. Prevention and early detection are the keys to a skin cancer-free life. In between skin checks, if you notice a suspicious mole, call your dermatologist. Annual checks are just the minimum, and it’s important to keep an eye on any changes to your skin year-round.
Connect with Spectrum Dermatology today and schedule your skin check via the online booking system.