Get the skinny on skin cancer screenings

skincancerLiving in the Texas heat can put you at risk for skin cancer. It’s hard to avoid the sun, and so it’s important to be aware of your skin. Routinely inspecting your body as well as regular skin cancer screenings can save your life.

“Everyone is at risk for skin cancer,” says Scott & White dermatologist Lindsey Hicks, MD. “One in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime.”

What Is Skin Cancer?

There are three different types of skin cancer, including:

  1. basal cell carcinoma
  2. squamous cell carcinoma
  3. melanoma

Dr. Hicks explains that basal cell carcinoma frequently appears as a pearly bump, whereas squamous cell carcinoma appears as a rough, red, non-healing scaly area or an ulcerated bump that bleeds. Melanoma appears as a new or rapidly growing mole or a mole that itches, bleeds or changes in color.

Why You Need a Skin Cancer Screening—Who’s at Risk?

Dr. Hicks says melanoma can affect anyone, but those with increased risk include:

  • Caucasians
  • Men over 50 years of age
  • Exposure to ultraviolet light, from the sun and indoor tanning devices
  • Fair skin types
  • Red or blonde hair
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Greater than 50 moles
  • A blood relative who has had melanoma
  • A previous diagnosis of either melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer
  • History of other previous cancers, such as breast or thyroid cancer

Even if you don’t fit the risk factors of melanoma, it’s important to get a skin cancer screening. It will give you the peace of mind you need. It will also make you aware of moles or spots to keep an eye on over time.

What Can I Expect at a Skin Cancer Screening?

A skin cancer screening is a full body examination with a dermatologist or other health care physician with expertise in dermatology.

“Patients should come in prepared to discuss any concerning or changing lesions that they have noticed,” says Dr. Hicks.

As skin cancers can occur anywhere on the external parts of the body, your doctor will do a full exam within your comfort level. Your doctor can examine your hair, nails, eyes, mouth, genitals and the total area of your skin depending on your request.

They will examine any moles, freckles or bumps, being aware of any signs of cancer. Depending on what they find, they may recommend removing certain legions to avoid the risk of skin cancer developing.

How to Avoid Skin Cancer

To help avoid the risk of skin cancer, The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends that everyone:

  1. Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 am and 2 pm.
  2. Wear protective clothing, such as shirts, pants, hat and sunglasses.
  3. Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen.
  4. Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun.
  5. Avoid tanning beds.

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Get the skinny on skin cancer screenings