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5 Reasons Why Screening For Skin Cancer Is Important
Most people get a skin cancer screening exam after they notice a strange mole or a new spot. But you don’t need to wait for these symptoms before you get tested. Constant and extreme sun exposure is enough to put us at risk for skin cancer.
Additionally, if you have light-colored skin, eyes, or hair, if you have more than a dozen moles, or if you’ve had blistering sunburns, you could be at high risk. A family history of melanoma or an organ transplant is also a cause for concern.
Fortunately, a skin cancer screening exam is quick and non-invasive. It usually involves a dermatologist running a thorough check of your skin, scalp, soles, and other parts of your body. A biopsy might be required if a suspicious lesion is found, but overall, it’s a simple procedure. Most importantly, it has lots of benefits.
Below are the reasons why skin cancer screening is vital.
Skin cancer is more common than you think
Skin cancer is one of the top five cancers worldwide. In 2020, 1.2 million new skin cancer cases were reported by the World Health Organization. In the United States, skin cancer affects one in five people by age 70, and is the most common cancer.
But why are so many people getting skin cancer?
Our everyday exposure to UV light is definitely a factor. It is also important to note that UV exposure does not only happen on beaches or mountaintops. Tanning beds and artificial sun lamps also emit UV rays.
Excessive exposure to UV light causes external damage to the skin such as sunburn. Beneath our skin’s layers, UV damage may cause abnormal cells to form, multiply, and spread. Existing moles might morph or new growths might appear on your skin, signaling the presence of skin cancer.
Anyone can develop skin cancer
Though fair-skinned people are more likely to develop skin cancer, it is not true that people with darker skin tones are immune to it. Though dark skin does not burn as easily, the UV rays that penetrate the skin can still cause damage to cells. Simply put, people of all skin tones can develop skin cancer.
Still, melanin helps people of color significantly improve their chances against skin cancer. But even if skin cancer is less prevalent among people of color, the disease usually has more fatal consequences for them because it is diagnosed late. For example, Black people who develop melanoma have a 25% lower survival rate than white people. One reason for this is that skin cancer symptoms develop in less sun-exposed areas, leading to late detection.
Skin cancer symptoms can appear in unexpected places
The skin is the body’s biggest and widest organ, so it’s not surprising that there are spots, bumps, and other skin concerns— possibly indicative of skin cancer— that go unnoticed. Malignant spots can grow on areas that are not usually exposed to sunlight like the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
While you can do a self-examination for moles and skin spots, there are body parts that can be difficult to see. During a skin cancer screening test, the dermatologist examines the skin on your scalp, ears, between your toes, around your genitals and between your buttocks. No unusual growth will be left undiscovered.
Skin cancer is easiest to cure when it’s detected early
Skin cancer is no different from other cancers in that early detection leads to better treatment. In other words, if skin cancer is detected early, there is a greater chance of curability.
After a skin exam, your dermatologist will bring your attention to suspicious growths or patches. He or she will then decide whether the growth should be monitored or removed. He or she may even document the growth to see if and how it changes.
When a mole is removed, a biopsy will be performed on it. The dermatologist will inform you of the biopsy results in a couple of weeks. Treatment, if necessary, will follow.
Your skin cancer risk increases with age
Sun damage begins at birth and even children can get skin cancer. After all, cancer does not choose an age to strike. However, the older you get, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer. That’s because sun damage is cumulative. All those outdoor trips and tanning sessions may not affect you now, but cumulatively, they can damage your skin to the point of developing cancer.
Practices like using sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses should be taken seriously. Health screening should also be done regularly, especially for high-risk individuals.
Skin cancer is very common and can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, or pigmentation. The risk for skin cancer increases with higher exposure to sunlight and older age. The symptoms can appear in areas that are hard to see without the help of a professional. Hence, it’s important to schedule an annual skin exam with your dermatologist. Remember: early detection of skin cancer can save your life.
To learn more about health screenings and how to take better care of your health, visit GlobalRPh.