Save your skin: The why, when & how to get yourself checked.
You probably know our body’s largest organ is our skin. But did you know that it’s also the part of the body most often diagnosed with cancer?
The most common forms of cancer are basal cell and squamous cell. These are the least likely to spread to other areas of the body and are typically very treatable. Melanoma is less common; however, it can be much more dangerous because it often spreads and can be fatal.
Here are a few things you should know and do to take care of your skin.
Know your risk
You are somewhat more likely to develop skin cancer if you have
-Light skin color
-Skin that burns and/or freckles easily
-Family and/or personal history of skin cancer
-Frequent exposure to the sun
-Large number of moles
What you should do
Catching problem skin areas early is the most important factor in treatment. Early detection can reduce the time and invasiveness of treatment–and can be lifesaving, especially in the case of melanoma.
1) Get your skin evaluated by a dermatologist
There’s no “best” age for a skin checkup. How often you need a checkup will be determined by your dermatologist once you’ve been assessed. The typical screening takes about 10 minutes–though it can run longer if your dermatologist spots anything unusual.
2) Complete periodic self-exams. The Mayo Clinic recommends giving your skin the once over to help catch cancer early. Here’s their ABC+DE of what to look for during your self-exam:
A) Asymmetrical moles or markings that have an irregular shape, or one that has two halves that look different from each other.
B) Borders of the mole are uneven, jagged or scalloped.
C) Coloring of a mole that varies from one area to another.
D) Diameters of moles that are larger than about one-quarter of an inch.
E) Evolving moles changing in size, shape or color, or if there's bleeding, itching or tenderness.
Whether or not you have an increased risk, practicing a few simple preventive measures can keep your skin healthy.
- Stay in the shade as often as possible, especially between 10a.m. and 4p.m.
- Don’t get sunburned.
- Avoid tanning, and don’t use UV tanning beds.
- Coverup, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use broad-spectrum SPF or higher sunscreens daily. If you plan to be outdoors for an extended time, bump your protection up to SPF 30 or higher.
Bottom line? You’ve got a lot of skin in the game. Making checkups apart of your healthcare routine can help you protect it.