Summer is a truly glorious season. It’s the time of year when we can break away from the daily grind and enjoy a more relaxed pace. (Even though the relaxed pace might involve swimming, hiking, and paddleboarding!)
From warm days at the beach to relaxing evenings spent with friends, summer is when we take a break from the stresses of the classroom or office and enjoy some fun outdoor activities.
Unfortunately, fun outdoor activities can put us at risk for sun damage and even skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States. Approximately one-fifth of all Americans will have a skin cancer diagnosis at some point. Regular skin checks by a qualified dermatologist can help identify and treat worrying skin changes before they become dangerous. Detecting cancer in its earliest stages allows for faster, easier treatment and can significantly reduce the risk of serious complications.
The three most common forms of skin cancer are the following:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: Basal cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer that is caused by damage to the skin from ultraviolet (UV) light. It is the most frequently diagnosed type of skin cancer and is usually not life-threatening. However, if left untreated, it can cause damage to the skin and can spread to other organ systems.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma is a category of skin cancer that is potentially dangerous if not treated promptly. Although rarely life-threatening, it can cause serious damage to the skin and surrounding tissue if unaddressed. Squamous cell carcinoma might spread, leading to more serious problems such as lymph node involvement and organ damage.
- Melanoma: Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that can be highly dangerous if left untreated. It is caused when melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment in the skin, become cancerous. Melanoma can be deadly if it spreads to other body parts, including the lymph nodes and vital organs.
We’ve often heard about having skin checks in early fall, but why schedule a skin exam before summer?
Pre-sun exams are more exhaustive.
A skin check in the colder months can help your doctor visualize skin abnormalities better. When your skin is lighter, skin changes are more noticeable. If your dermatologist identifies any worrying changes, you can learn the best ways of protecting and screening potentially vulnerable areas.
What’s involved in a skin check?
Because skin cancers and a variety of other skin disorders stem from hereditary, environmental, and age-specific influences, it might be challenging to distinguish between an abnormality and a benign issue. As part of a comprehensive skin examination, a holistic assessment is performed. This evaluation includes allowances for inherited risks, sun exposure intensity, and medical considerations that might lead to changes in the skin’s appearance.
In most cases, observable skin irregularities like melasma and freckles are not causes for alarm. However, if anomalies are detected, they can usually be treated effectively when caught early. If you feel any pain, irritation, or discomfort, or if you see a new spot, please schedule a skin evaluation immediately before the issue becomes serious.
During skin checks, your doctor will use the ABCDE guidelines for skin cancer detection. These include the following:
- Asymmetry. A skin patch, spot, or mole with a jagged or irregular shape is more concerning than a perfectly round spot.
- Borders. Uneven or undefined borders are potentially serious.
- Colors. Inconsistent colors or colors that appear to fade within the spot should be checked.
- Diameter. Spots larger than approximately 6mm should be examined.
- Evolving. Spots that change color, size, or shape.
Besides addressing any observable conditions, a qualified dermatologist offers in-depth treatment options for a broad spectrum of skin issues. By providing protective and preventative strategies before summer, a skin check can help you improve the health of your skin from the inside out.
If you have any concerns about your skin, schedule a skin check today.