Why You Should Have an Annual Skin Cancer Screening & How to Prepare for Your Appointment

June 10, 2019

Annual Skin Cancer Screening

Make the most of your next visit to the dermatologist by educating yourself about skin cancer screenings and annual testing. The importance of self-examination cannot be understated – it’s the first step in preventing skin cancer and keeping yourself healthy.

The key to an efficient self-exam is knowing exactly what you’re looking for. Without a solid background in dermatology, it can be easy to miss cancerous or precancerous spots. That’s why the American Academy of Dermatology created an easy to follow guide for identifying potential skin cancers.

Let’s take a look at this guide, as well as how to prepare for your annual skin cancer screening at your dermatologist.

The A-B-C-D-E Guide

Developed by the American Academy of Dermatology, the A-B-C-D-E guide seeks to educate people on how to spot the signs of melanoma in a digestible and standardized manner.

The Academy has defined each of these letters as a guide in the following ways:

  •   A stands for asymmetry, or when one half of a mole or mark appears unlike the other.
  •   B is for border, or an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined outer edge.
  •   C is for color, or when a mole or mark varies in color from one area to another or has different shades of tan, brown, black, white, red, or blue.
  •   D stands for diameter, as melanomas are usually greater than six millimeters (or the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed.
  •   E stands for evolving, or when a mole or skin lesion changes in size, shape, or color.

Being aware of your skin and the signs associated with melanoma is paramount to keeping yourself safe. However, you shouldn’t stop there – making an annual visit to your dermatologist for a professional examination ensures that all suspicious moles and marks are appropriately diagnosed.

How to Prepare for Your Skin Cancer Check-Up

Before your appointment, be sure to remove all nail polish, makeup, and jewelry. While you may think your dermatologist will only be looking at the greater portion of your skin, your nail beds can be a quick indicator for skin cancer – that’s why it’s best to make sure they’re visible. Make a mental (or literal) note of any changing, itching, or uncomfortable spots on your skin to discuss with your doctor. Don’t forget to take into account anything you found during your self-examination!

What to Expect During Your Visit

Your dermatologist will begin your exam by going over an in-depth assessment of your medical history and defining any pre-existing concerns before taking a closer look at your skin. If you've never had any atypical moles, your skin cancer screening will not take long. In fact, they generally only last 10 to 15 minutes. However, if you're someone who has had a number of abnormal moles, your exam could take longer.

While your doctor will conduct the exam as they see fit for your skin, it’s still important to be proactive. Ask your dermatologist to examine any new growths or ones that have recently changed.

Typically, if the dermatologist finds a spot that they suspect may be dangerous, it will be biopsied. During a biopsy, a sliver of tissue is removed for evaluation by a pathologist, who can determine whether or not the spot is cancerous.

Ask Questions

Asking questions before, during, and after your exam is the best way to keep yourself well-informed and aware of your skin’s health. Talk to your dermatologist about specific areas to keep an eye on (such as your nail beds, scalp, and the soles of your feet). It’s also important to discuss the recommended ways to prevent sun damage and skin cancer, such as integrating an SPF lotion into your everyday routine. Your doctor may also encourage you to wear specific clothing when in the sun, like a rashguard with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) 50+ protection.

Education is Key for Healthy Skin

The earlier you discover skin cancer, the easier it is to treat successfully. That’s why early detection is so crucial. Both professional skin exams and self-examinations are hugely useful in the early detection of skin cancers.

To keep your skin healthy, you must educate yourself and make annual skin cancer appointments with your dermatologist. And if you ever have an inkling that something may be off with your skin, don’t be afraid to set up an additional appointment – this is especially true if you have a history of skin cancer or numerous moles.

Of course, the first step to preventing skin cancer is by utilizing proper sun-protection. For fashionable, sun-protective clothing and beachwear, visit the Cabana Life website. We have UPF 50+ pieces for the whole family!