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How Often Should You Be Seen for Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin cancer is the growth of abnormal skin cells, usually from exposure to harmful rays of the sun. There are three main types of skin cancers: squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and melanoma. Frequent screening for cancer can help in early detection and treatment. But how often should you be seen for the best chance at prevention?

Most dermatologists agree that annual skin cancer screening is enough to up your chances of overall prevention. Those who are more susceptible to developing skin cancer may choose to be screened a bit more frequently, perhaps twice a year.

You may opt to be seen more frequently if:

  • you are often exposed to radiation.

People who have received radiation treatment for skin conditions such as eczema and acne have a higher risk of getting skin cancer, especially basal cell carcinoma. That’s because when radiation comes into contact with the skin, it can cause the cells’ DNA to mutate and possibly develop cancer cells.

  • you have a weaker immune system.

Skin cancer is more likely to develop in people who have compromised immune systems. This includes HIV/AIDS patients and those on immunosuppressive medications.

  • you previously had skin cancer.

If you’ve had skin cancer before, there’s a chance that the cancer cells may form again.

  • you spend a significant amount of time in the sun.

Anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun, especially if they don’t use sunscreen or wear protective gear, is at risk of developing skin cancer. You are also in danger if you use tanning lamps or beds. Keep in mind that a tan is simply the skin’s response to damage. The radiation from the sun is cooking the DNA in your skin, causing the tan, and may result in skin cancer.

  • you have little melanin in your skin.

Skin cancer can affect everyone regardless of skin color. However, having less pigment (melanin) in your skin gives you less protection from harmful UV rays. You’re considerably more likely to develop skin cancer if you have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and you sunburn easily.

Whether you go for a checkup once or twice a year, it’s a good idea to be aware of skin cancer symptoms so that you may “screen” yourself throughout the year.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer to Look For

Although it can occur in locations rarely exposed to the sun — for example, your nails, your genital area, and your palms — skin cancer is expected in sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands, scalp, and legs. The symptoms present themselves as:

  • A painful lesion that is itchy or burns.

  • A tiny lesion with an uneven border with red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black sections.

  • A mole that bleeds or changes color, size, or texture.

  • Dark sores on the soles of the feet, fingertips, or toes, as well as on the mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, or genitals.

  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles on the surface.

  • A red and firm nodule.

  • A scaly, crusty lesion with a flat surface.

Whether you’re 20 or 60, it’s a good idea to get a skin cancer screening at least once a year. If you’re in the greater Cincinnati area, The Dermatology Group can help. Contact us today for your screening and to speak with a dermatologist about your skincare needs.

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