Since we’re nearing the end of summertime, it’s important to focus on the largest and most important organ in our body since it has most likely spent a lot of time in the sun these past few months: our skin.
During the summer, compared to the rest of the year from the salt water to the sun, our skin is likely to be exposed to the most amount of environmental damage. Because of these possibly irritating factors, your skin reacts in ways that are… well, uncomfortable such as becoming dehydrated, flaky, and possibly sunburned. Along with many remedies to help heal your skin from these conditions, a visit to the dermatologist is also a huge help and could prevent any further damage.
The importance of going for an annual skin cancer screening is simple: skin cancers are important to detect early and with several common types, the sun plays a major role. Along with your yearly skin screenings, as the American Academy of Dermatology’s website states, “if you notice a spot or lump that is growing, bleeding, or changing, you should make an appointment to see the dermatologist.”
Basically at your appointment, the dermatologist will take a look at your skin from head to toe and make notes in your chart of any marks or moles that seem large or out of the ordinary. In depth, they will be looking for this:
Precancerous growths called Actinic Keratoses that can be mistook for age spots. They can also look red or scaly. It’s important to make note of these very common marks to make sure they aren’t growing or changing.
Although there are several kinds of skin cancers, the dermatologist will also be looking for these common types of skin cancer:
- Melanoma: looks like an irregular mole that we are all told to watch out for – growth or changes. Melanoma could also “look like a brown or black streak under the nail or a bruise on the foot that does not heal.” (aad.org). Because melanoma can look like a typical mole, the Skin Cancer Foundation provides the public with a handy way of detecting any possibly alarming spots. It is called the ABCDEs ofMelanoma and the first thing to look for is Asymmetry, as a benign mole is not asymmetrical. The second is Border, as melanoma tends to have an uneven border. The third is Color, as a variety of colors within a mole are another warning sign. The fourth is Diameter, so any mole larger than a pencil tip, or ¼ inches, is an alarming size regarding melanoma. The last thing to look for is Evolving, meaning any change in size, shape, color, elevation, etc. (skincancer.org)
- Squamous cell carcinoma: SCC, although can occur anywhere and for other reasons, is actually commonly caused by too much sun and appears in areas where the skin has been frequently exposed to the UV rays. It appears as hard, reddish bumps or patches and can be an open sore that itches and bleeds.
- Basal cell carcinoma: BCC, “is the most common type of skin cancer. (aad.org). Like SCC, it can appear anywhere and has other causes but it commonly appears in areas that get a lot of sun. BCC looks like lumps or pimples that do not heal or clear up. The scars can feel waxy, and look pink, red, or brown. They can bleed, heal, and then return. BCC can also appear as “a group of slow-growing, shiny pink or red growths that look like sores, often scaly and bleed easily.” (aad.org).
Your doctor will tell you to keep an eye on any of these marks or moles and if they do not require immediate action (i.e. a biopsy which is necessary for diagnosing skin cancer, etc.), then that’s it! From then on, your future appointments should be relatively simple as your doctor checks for any new marks and makes sure the others aren’t changing or growing. (Anything for a little piece of mind and my last screening didn’t last any longer than 15 minutes!)
What it comes down to is that anyone can get skin cancer and the American Academy of Dermatology specifically states, “Sun and indoor tanning are the leading causes of skin cancer.” (aad.org). A person’s skin type, family, and medical history, exposure to chemicals, and tobacco use are all factors as well, although, we all have our moments where we have been in the sun and our sunscreen wore off and we got a little burnt, perhaps we didn’t have a hat handy, and we’re certainly not always able to stay inside our homes every day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m when the sun is the strongest. However, what we can do is make sure we are proactive about preventing further damage by having a trusty dermatologist on our side!
American Academy of Dermatology, aad.org
The Skin Cancer Foundation, skincancer.org