Annual Skin Exam
In addition to doing routine skin self-exams, people should have a skin cancer check regularly by a doctor or a Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner. A doctor can do a skin cancer check during visits for regular checkups. Patients who think they have atypical moles should point them out to the doctor. It is also important to tell the doctor about any new, changing, or “ugly-looking” moles.
If your doctor has any concerns, then he or she will refer you to a dermatologist who can provide you with a more specific diagnosis.
What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a very real risk, especially in cities in the South. Although anyone can get skin cancer, there are a few risk factors that increase your chances. Patients with these risk factors should be proactive in their prevention, and treatment:
- Family History of Skin Cancer. If anyone in your family has skin cancer or a large number (usually over 100) of atypical moles, you should get an annual skin cancer screening. These people have an especially high risk of developing melanoma. When two or more family members develop melanoma, it is important for all of the patients’ close relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, and children above the age of 12) to visit their dermatologist for a skin cancer check for atypical moles or any signs of melanoma.
- Sun Exposure. If you are constantly exposed to UVA and UVB rays without the protection of sunscreen, your chances for melanoma are greatly increased. Patients who have had severe sunburns in their childhood have an even higher chance of developing skin cancer.
- Fair Skin. Most patients who develop skin cancer are very fair-skinned with light hair, blue or green eyes, and freckles. The chance of sunburns is much higher for these patients, and any moles should be carefully observed by a dermatologist.
While these are not the only factors that influence the development of skin cancer, if you have one or more of these features then an annual skin cancer screening is highly recommended.
What Can I Expect From An Annual Skin Exam?
A doctor may want to watch a slightly abnormal mole closely to see whether it changes over time. Anyone who has a large number of abnormal moles should also be regularly examined, which can be as often as twice a year for patients with more risk factors.
During your skin cancer check, sometimes a doctor decides that a mole should be removed so that the tissue can be examined under a microscope. The removal of a mole, called a biopsy, only takes a few minutes and is very common and usually performed in the doctor’s office. During the procedure Dr. Perri will:
Step 1 – Local anesthesia is applied to the area around the mole.
Step 2 – Mole is removed with a shave biopsy.
Step 3 – Mole will be examined to determine if cancer is present.
After your biopsy, the mole will be sent to a pathologist to examine the tissue under a microscope and see whether the melanocytes are normal, dysplastic, or cancerous.
Learn the Benefits of an Annual Skin Exam with Dr. Perri
Early detection is key to skin cancer treatment. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the higher your chances are for recovering completely with the least amount of surgical intervention and follow-up treatment. An annual skin cancer screening will allow your dermatologist to monitor any suspicious moles or discolorations before they turn harmful.
To schedule your annual preventative skin exam, call our offices.