At-home skin care, while important, is only part of the overall picture of skin health. The other part is getting your annual dermatology exam. During an annual skin exam, a professional dermatologist examines your skin for possible signs of cancer and other health concerns. By getting an annual exam, you are protecting your skin and your health.
Getting a regular dermatology exam is your best defense against skin cancer. For the majority of people over 50 years of age that means yearly. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world, and at least one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. Skin cancer is especially common in sunny regions, as UV exposure from the sun is responsible for as many as 90% of skin cancers.
On the bright side, early detection of skin cancer – even melanoma, the most dangerous form – is associated with a high survival rate. Getting your annual skin examination is the best way to ensure that any cancerous or precancerous skin lesions are detected and cured early.
Because you can frequently examine your own skin (doctors recommend once a month), self-exams can help you find anything suspicious that your dermatologist should know about. Monthly self-examinations of your skin are extremely important and can ensure early detection of skin cancer. However, it’s not enough to do these skin exams all on your own. Dermatologists recommend self-examinations in addition to your annual exam – not as a replacement.
For one reason, you can’t see every inch of your skin. During a self-exam, you can strategically angle a handheld mirror to help you examine areas of your body you can’t normally see. However, even with this intelligent approach there may still be areas that you miss, and skin cancer can appear anywhere on your body. Your dermatologist will be able to conduct a full head-to-toe evaluation for you during your yearly exam.
It is also important to note that some suspicious skin lesions grow or change slowly. You may not realize these changes are occurring with monthly self-examinations. Changes can be more easily observed over greater lengths of time, and your annual exam gives your dermatologist the opportunity to compare the appearance of any suspicious lesions with last year’s exam.
Perhaps the most important reason why self-exams cannot replace your annual dermatology exam is that not every individual knows what to look for or has the tools to identify a suspicious skin lesion. Your dermatologist can teach you what to watch for during your self-examinations. However, it will be far easier for your dermatologist, a professional who is specially trained and does this every day, to distinguish between something benign and something potentially suspicious.
Your dermatologist can also conduct a more thorough examination using tools such as a dermatoscope. A dermatoscope is a specially designed handheld magnifying lens that can offer a more accurate look than the human eye alone. This provides a better chance for early skin cancer detection. In other words, your dermatologist is likely to find a suspicious lesion sooner than you would on your own. Earlier stage skin cancers are more easily cured; therefore, attending your annual skin exam could quite literally save your life.
In addition to checking for existing skin cancers, the annual skin exam can identify warning factors and other skin concerns. For example, some skin cancers begin as actinic keratoses, precancerous lesions that could someday turn into cancer. This exam could help you avoid health complications that may one day become a serious threat. It might also reveal lifestyle behaviors that are increasing your risk of developing skin cancer (such as frequent tanning or sunbathing without wearing sunscreen).
Your annual skin examination is a comprehensive skin check and will evaluate your overall skin health. Even if you do not have skin cancer, your dermatologist can discuss with you benign growths, rashes, signs of aging, and more. There is no one better qualified to help you understand the best way to care for your skin.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Brandon Kirsch and the rest of our staff here at Kirsch Dermatology are committed to providing excellence in patient care. We offer comprehensive skin exams to ensure you receive timely evaluation and treatment for any skin concerns. To schedule your annual comprehensive skin evaluation call (239) 300-9767 or contact us online today.