Routine skin exams are an important part of comprehensive skin care. During these appointments, our dermatologists look for atypical moles and other potential signs of skin cancer. As with other types of cancer, early detection of skin cancer is essential to promoting the best possible outcomes, including the least invasive treatment options and the greatest chances of a cure. While you should continue to perform self-assessments at home on a monthly basis, here’s what you should know about scheduling skin exams.
At What Age Should You Start?
Unfortunately, there’s a lack of clear, formal guidance as to when people should first start receiving skin exams. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is currently in the process of updating their recommendations for skin cancer screenings. While randomized controlled studies are the standard for forming recommendations, medical research into skin cancer screenings has been limited.
What we do know is that our trained dermatologists can spot potential signs of skin cancer earlier than the average person might, so scheduling a skin exam is good for your overall health in that regard. Most people begin to go for exams in early adulthood, as risk increases with age. Children should also always be seen by a dermatologist if there are any new or concerning skin developments.
Does Everyone Need a Skin Exam?
While there has been some debate about whether everyone needs a skin exam, there are some other important facts that we know to be true: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and anyone can get it. We agree with the Skin Cancer Foundation in their recommendation for everyone to have annual skin exams, but screenings are especially important if you have any of the following risk factors:
- A strong family history of skin cancer, including two or more blood relatives who have had melanoma
- Previous basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers
- Many precancerous lesions known as actinic keratoses spots
- Suspicious moles, including those that meet the ABCDE criteria
What to Expect from a Skin Exam
During the skin exam, one of our providers will perform a head-to-toe assessment of your skin to look for atypical moles or any areas of concern. They may use a handheld magnifying device to see the surface of your skin more closely. Should they discover any abnormal spots, they may perform a biopsy by administering a numbing agent and removing a small portion of skin to be sent to the lab for screening. The entire process typically takes about 10 minutes.
To prepare for your appointment, be sure to come with any questions or concerns you may already have, including any moles that have changed over time. Remove nail polish, wear your hair down, and avoid heavy makeup so the doctors can access all areas of your skin with ease.
If you’re due for a skin exam, contact the caring providers at Olansky Dermatology to set up an appointment. Our team is committed to helping you maintain comprehensive skin care, with both medial and aesthetic services. Request an appointment online or by calling 404-355-5484.