The Importance of an Annual Skin Check

Doctor performing annual skin check

If someone were to ask you, what is the largest organ in your body? You probably would respond with the intestines or perhaps the liver. The reality is your largest organ is your skin. It is not only the largest but also the most exposed and it should be treated with as much care as the others. While we most often associate our skin with aging and beauty, skin cancer also poses a serious health risk.

In fact, incidence rates of skin cancer have continually increased year after year making it even more prevalent than colon, prostate, and lung cancers.

Types of Skin Cancer

Melanoma Skin Cancer

One of the most dangerous types of skin cancer is melanoma, which is caused by too much exposure to UV rays from sun or other sources, such as those found in tanning lamps or beds. Melanoma often spreads to other parts of the body and can be deadly when not treated.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell is the most common type of skin cancer and is often focused on your face, head, and neck. This type of skin cancer is often associated with tanning beds.

  • Squamous Cell Cancer

This is the second most common cause of skin cancer and often does not spread to other parts of the body as melanoma cancers do. This type of cancer usually occurs on exposed parts of the skin.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

Getting an early diagnosis is extremely important so you should look for signs of skin cancer and contact your doctor if you notice any changes in your moles such as:

  • Change in shape,
  • Increase in size,
  • Irregular borders,
  • Variation in color

In addition to checking your moles you should also be on the lookout for:

  • Itchy patches of skin,
  • Extreme discomfort or pain on a patch of skin,
  • Sores that don’t heal,
  • Nodules on skin,
  • New areas of pink skin,
  • Scar-like areas not caused by a previous injury

Prevention

While skin cancer is becoming more prevalent, it is preventable. To help protect yourself from skin cancer you need to

Cover Up

The less exposed your skin is to the sun, the less likely you are to develop skin cancer. When outdoors on sunny days, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes, and wear clothing that covers up as much skin as possible. When at the beach wear a cover-up to protect your skin when you are out of the water.

Wear Sunscreen

Be sure to protect any exposed skin with sunscreen. It is best to use a broad-spectrum brand sunscreen and be sure it is 30 SPF or higher. It is extremely important to reapply at least every two hours, as sunscreen is not meant to last all day. If you are going in the water or sweating a lot, reapply more often if you are not using a water proof brand.

Avoid Tanning Lamps and Beds

While you may feel that an all over glow enhances your summer look, or are afraid of looking too pale in the winter, spending time in a tanning bed is hardly worth the risk of your health. If you really feel you need some added color, you may want to look at spray tan products, which have come a long way towards looking more natural in recent years.

Stay in the Shade

If you are planning to spend the day outside, try to spend most of your time in the shade. If you are in an area that you know will have little shade, bring along a sun umbrella or pop-up awning. Not only will you help protect your skin from the sun, you will be able to stay cool.

Have an Annual Skin Check

The best preventative measure you can take to prevent skin cancer is to schedule an annual skin check. Early detection of skin cancer significantly increases your survival rate, especially in cases of melanoma, where early detection can prevent its spread. While self-monitoring of your skin is important to skin cancer detection, a 10 to 15 minute head to toe skin exam performed during your annual skin check can help to find changes or patterns that you might not have noticed.

Want to lower your risk for skin cancer? Schedule your annual skin check today. Contact the specialists at KMHCS to schedule your appointment.

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