Skin Cancer Screening
Skin cancer can be deadly. It's the most common form of cancer in the United States, with two million people diagnosed every year. There's been an alarming rise in all age groups, but the incidence of melanoma among 18- to 39-year-old women is up 800 percent in women the last 40 years.
Sunlight and exposure to UV light (as in indoor tanning beds) are the most common causes of melanoma and other skin cancers, as well as premature aging. A genetic mutation in a gene called BRAF occurs in approximately 50% of patients with advanced melanoma.
Am I at Risk for Skin Cancer?
At CHI Health Cancer Care, we recommended that anyone 20 and over has a baseline skin cancer screening every year when he or she sees a primary care physician. If something looks suspicious, the physician can recommend a dermatologist.
Anyone with a high risk of developing melanoma should protect themselves from overexposure to sunlight and have a whole body skin exam performed by a dermatologist every three-12 months (depending on your risk factors). This includes individuals with a personal or family history of melanoma, and those with irregular moles that are larger than normal.
Performing Your Own Skin Cancer Screening
It’s also good to perform regular skin self-exams. Anyone with risk factors for skin cancer should check their entire body about once a month.
Skin cancers may have many different appearances. They can be small, shiny, or waxy, scaly and rough, firm and red, crusty or bleeding, or have other features. Itching, tenderness, scaling, bleeding, crusting or sores can signal potentially cancerous changes in any mole.
A basic guideline for performing a self-exam is to follow the skin cancer ABCDE rule:
- Asymmetry – Is the abnormal skin area irregular or uneven (asymmetric)?
- Border – Does the mole have jagged or blurry edges?
- Color – Has the mole changed color?
- Diameter – Is the diameter of the mole 6 millimeters or larger (about the size of a pencil eraser)?
- Evolution – Has the lesion changed in size, color, or appearance? Changes that occur over a short period of time are most concerning.
If you notice anything that has changed or is new, see your doctor and have routine skin exams during regular health check-ups.
Take Charge of Your Health—Schedule your Skin Cancer Screening
For early detection and prevention of skin cancer, it is important to see your primary care physician every year to learn what cancer screens you should have based on your age and family history.
Our physicians have earned national recognition for their work in cancer detection. We also have more primary care physicians than any other system in the region. Find a skilled primary care physician at CHI Health or call 1-800-253-4368 and we’ll point you to the right doctor.