As the seasons change, we like to remind our patients that fall is the time we recommend our skin cancer body check. The Archives of Dermatology reported that in a survey of patients, men and women seek skin cancer screenings for very different reasons. Women are more likely to schedule skin cancer body checks after noticing a change in skin lesions, due to a family history of skin cancer and sun exposure. Men, on the other hand, most often attend skin cancer screenings much later in life after being prompted by a female spouse or family member or after a previous skin cancer diagnosis.
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States. Evidence shows that while family history does play a part, extended unprotected sun exposure (including time spent in tanning beds) is a recognized cause of skin cancer, and that early detection is an important key in catching signs of pre-cancers.
While it seems as though women are seeking skin cancer screenings for the right reasons, it is still important to do so in a timely manner. The median age of women in the survey was around 53 years old. The truth is that people of any age should seek a skin cancer body check if they notice any troubling change in their skin texture or tone. Actinic keratosis is a pre-cancer that is most often found in commonly sun damaged areas like the face, top of the shoulders, and arms. These actinic keratoses are characterized by red, rough, and scaly spots of skin that become rough, and almost even tender when rubbed.
If left undetected and/or untreated, actinic keratosis can lead to one of three kinds of skin cancer including squamous and basal cell carcinoma as well as melanoma. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as irritated, scaly patches of skin, while basal cell carcinoma is characterized by raised, smooth bumps around the head, neck, or shoulders. Sometimes it can look like a sore that never heals. Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer and most often looks like a darker brown or black lesion. Actinic keratoses may seem harmless because they aren’t cancer, but if patients go too long without treatment, they can turn into basal or squamous cell carcinomas and even melanoma.
Though it’s the most serious form of skin cancer, it’s important to know that melanoma can be 100% curable if detected early.
Monitor your skin for changes in moles including changes in shape, size, elevation, and color. To help with at-home monitoring of potential skin cancers, we often tell our patients to look for the ABCDE’s when checking any moles or suspicious lesions:
- Borders (irregularities)
- Color (changes)
- Diameter (bigger than a pencil eraser)
- Evolving over time
During a medical skin cancer body check, your dermatologist will carefully examine your skin for any curious moles or lesions. If you have any concerns, it’s best to address them with your doctor, and he or she can track any new or existing moles from year to year to measure any growth or other changes.
If necessary, your dermatologist may recommend a treatment option based on any existing pre-cancers or cancers he or she finds. For example, photodynamic therapy uses laser light to destroy cancerous tissues, while cryosurgery uses extreme cold to eliminate abnormal cells and pre-cancers.
Skin cancer screenings are a short, painless prevention measure that can help individuals of any age recognize the signs and symptoms of skin cancer. The survey published in the Archives of Dermatology demonstrates that women are ahead of men in terms of staying on top of skin cancer checks. Regardless of age, sex, or sun exposure habits, it’s important to track your yearly skin changes.
Contact us for more information on Dermatology Associates of Atlanta and to schedule your skin cancer body check. You can also stay up-to-date on our news and events by “Liking” us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.