While most skin cancers are a direct result of sun exposure, there are also common forms of cancer that can appear on unexposed skin, posing many hidden risks for otherwise healthy people. Because of this, MetroDerm and its board-certified dermatologists suggest annual skin cancer screening exams to combat the growing risk of contracting skin cancer.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells in the epidermis, or the outermost layer of skin. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin cancer can take any of those forms depending on the varying degree of intensity, with melanoma being the most serious type of skin cancer.
If you have a history of staying out in the sun, especially without sunscreen, there is a chance you have spots of differing colors across your skin. While some of these spots are harmless, others could be potential vectors for melanoma. Dermatologists look for five aspects of possible skin cancer, commonly referred to as ABCDE:
- Border irregularity
- Evolution Over Time
What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
Here are some visual indications of potentially cancerous skin:
- New freckles, moles, or skin growths
- Spots of differently colored skin or differently textured skin (red spots, dark brown/black spots, rough patches, scaled skin, etc.)
- Spots on your skin that have changed over time (gotten larger, smaller, misshapen, etc.)
- Spots on your skin that itch, bleed, or protrude differently from the rest of your body
It’s important to have a professional routinely inspect your skin to catch any early indications of skin cancer. That is the purpose of a skin cancer screening exam.
What Should I Expect During My Exam?
Skin cancer screening exams are routine procedures done by board-certified dermatologists to identify any potentially hazardous spots of cancerous skin on the body. These exams are quick and painless visual examinations that take no longer than 15 minutes, giving peace of mind and the safety seal of approval.
During the skin cancer screening exam, you will remove your clothing and wear a medical examination gown. A dermatologist will then ask if you have any areas of interest, or spots of skin that you want examined first. After this initial consultation, the dermatologist will then begin a full-body inspection, looking at every part of your body (including areas that do not normally get routine sunlight exposure). Once you have been examined, the dermatologist will either clear you, or let you know if further action must be taken on potentially dangerous skin spots.
Overall, skin cancer screening tests are preventative measures to ensure that your skin is safe for years to come. While contracting skin cancer can lead to dangerous and expensive measures, a routine check-up exam is a safe, easy way to catch cancer before it starts.