Written and researched for Charlotte’s Book: an online resource dedicated to aesthetic health + wellness.
Got your end-of-summer sun-dose last weekend? Here’s a wake up call: 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by skin cancer, and more than 3.5 million new cases in 2 million people are diagnosed annually. There are various types of skin cancers that can affect people of all skin colors and types, including actinic keratoses (AK), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma, the deadliest one. Like monitoring for breast cancer, doing regular self-checks at home and having a professional screening in a doctor’s office can help catch all forms of skin cancer in it’s early stages, thus saving your skin and perhaps even your life.
Yet, according to a study carried out by Ipsos (a global independent market research company) commissioned by La Roche-Posay, only 18 percent of us visit a dermatologist regularly for a skin cancer screening, and about 38 percent check do self-checks. Another scary stat: Only 26 percent of those surveyed said they used sunscreen everyday, which is the most effective way to prevent the onset of skin cancer.
A thorough skin self-exam (make time for one every month), is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs, your back and scalp. Dr. Mona Gohara, a fellow of American Academy of Dermatology, member of the Skin Of Color Society, and a medical content reviewer for the Skin Cancer Foundation, advises to look for the ABC’s of skin cancer:
A is for asymmetry. A normal mole is symmetrical, so an asymmetric mole could be a sign of melanoma.
B is for border. Moles with an uneven, jagged border should raise suspicion.
C is for color. A mole with more than one or uneven distribution of color is a sign of melanoma progressing.
D is for diameter. Moles larger than a pencil eraser should be viewed more suspiciously, however, melanomas can be quite even smaller when they initially develop.
E is for evolution. Look for a change in size, shape, or elevation of both new and changing moles.
Head immediately to a dermatologist if you have any doubts during a self-exam. But even if everything looks OK to you, in-office skin cancer screening tests are paramount because the doctor can see things you may not. Here’s what to expect.
WHO SHOULD GIVE ME THIS TREATMENT?
You should only visit an actively board certified dermatologist for skin cancer screenings. Dermatologists should be certified by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD), which is a part of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a non-profit organization that is considered the gold standard of physician certification. Consult the Charlotte’s Book Premier Provider directory to find a doctor who meets these standards and specializes in this treatment. For more information about how we choose our providers, please read Credentials We Abide By.
WHAT DOES THE TREATMENT FEEL LIKE?
There is nothing painful at all about a skin cancer screening, so there are no excuses. Your physician will check you from head-to-toe, and use a tool called a dermatoscope or the Melafind, when necessary, to better visualize your individual lesions. In preparation for your skin cancer screening, you should remove all of your makeup as well as any nail polish.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Skin cancer screenings usually take approximately 10 minutes, but the more moles you have, the longer the exam. It is recommended to undergo skin cancer screenings once a year, and if previously treated for skin cancer, every six months. A person who is an organ-transplant recipient has a higher risk for developing skin cancer and should be screened more often according to a doctor’s recommendation.
WHAT ARE THE ANTICIPATED RESULTS?
Hopefully the results are the you’re in the clear. But if any suspicious lesions are identified, your doctor will likely perform a skin biopsy, whereby the lesion is removed and then submitted to the laboratory to be examined by a dermatopathologist. You may also be encouraged to have more diagnostic tests to determine if you have cancer.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The cost of a skin cancer screening typically corresponds with a doctor’s consultation fee, which ranges from $150-$450. Your health insurance may cover the cost, so check with the doctor’s office manager.
This is one of the most important reasons to get to know your body well…you are the most qualified person to notice any abnormal changes to your skin. Know your body, know your skin, and perform self-exams as often as possible. And be sure not to overlook areas like the scalp, between the toes, and the soles of the feet. It’s important to remove nail polish from fingers and toes before your screening so the doctor can look at the skin under your nails.
Find a Charlotte’s Book expert in your city to book a screening now.