Annual Skin Check
Do You Need An Annual
Once again we come to the time when one year rolls into another. It is a good reminder to us to make sure that we have taken care of certain health issues which need to be addressed at least annually. Unfortunately, one issue which tends to be frequently overlooked is an annual skin exam. The fact that most people tend to forget to have an annual skin exam is quite shocking, given the fact that the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States is skin cancer.
How dangerous is skin cancer?
Fortunately, the vast majority of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas. Both of these types of skin cancers can be thought of as locally destructive tumors, which can be cured by having them excised or removed. In only very rare cases do these types of cancers spread to other parts of the body. Because these tumors can eat-away at the normal tissue around them and cause fairly large defects over time, it is recommended to have them treated as early as possible.
Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer with a very different story. It does not occur frequently, but is the deadliest. In the case of malignant melanoma, early detection is critical because it can be life-saving. Once this form of skin cancer has begun to spread, treatment is difficult.
Why do some people develop
Most skin cancers, including basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, develop from sun damage which accrues over ones lifetime. Also, it is believed that there is a genetic component involved. This means that you are more likely to develop a skin cancer if one of your parents has had skin cancer. Genetic susceptibility also comes into play with malignant melanoma. However, instead of just sun damage being important, current thinking is that it is a history of bad sunburns which may be more important in determining ones risk of developing malignant melanoma.
How do you know if you have a skin cancer? What do skin
cancers look like?
The best way to know if you have a skin cancer, or something on your skin which needs to be removed, is to have a full body skin exam by a board-certified dermatologist. In addition, you should check your own skin monthly for anything that appears to be new or changing. Most lesions which are more worrisome will appear to change or grow over time. If you notice anything like this, you should make an appointment as soon as you are able to, because early detection of a skin cancer can be critical.