The Naked Truth
By Rhonda Klein, MD, MPH, FAAD
We know you dread it, the stripping down in our office under those fluorescent lights. We understand. But let us reassure you that it is quite painless, comfortable, and quick! It is also very important, so don’t put it off any longer.
How often should I get a skin screening?
While the American Academy of Dermatology does not specify frequency of skin screenings, we generally recommend all adults to have a screening annually. For those with a strong personal or family history of skin cancer, atypical moles, light-colored hair and eyes, a history of sunburns, or frequent use of tanning salons, we may recommend more than once a year. Without a family history of skin cancer, most kids do not need a skin screening unless they have many moles or other skin conditions that may increase their risk of skin cancer.
Can I do self-checks or should I visit a dermatologist?
You should do self-checks in ADDITION to your annual skin check! It’s best to be familiar with your moles and lesions so that you will notice if a new spot develops, as this is one of the biggest risk factors for abnormal lesions. If you have a lot of moles, taking photos for your monthly monitoring is also very helpful and we will take photos in the office as well.
How do I do a self-check?
Look over your body carefully – the more you know about your own body, the more likely you will be to notice a change. We follow the ABCDEs of detecting Melanoma, which is an excellent lens through which to look at your skin during a self-exam. Check out this video where Dr. Klein explains the ABCDEs.
Why do I need a skin cancer screening?
Skin cancer is currently the most common form of cancer in the US; it’s preventable and curable when caught early. There is a clear role for screening and early detection. As dermatologists, we are getting better and better tools for early detection. At Modern Dermatology, we utilize dermatoscopes (which give us a look at deeper skin structures) and photography to detect changes, diagnose, and treat at the earliest possible stage.
What should I do between screenings to prevent sun damage and skin cancer?
Most critical is the proper use of sunscreen every day, year-round to the body’s sun exposed areas, wear sun protective clothing (UPF clothing) when in the sun, DO NOT USE tanning beds, and integrate medical grade skin care into your routine to help reverse sun damage. Some products to consider include antioxidants, retinols, and DNA repair enzymes. We can help develop a skin care regimen for your specific skin type that will help to repair and prevent UV damage.
Last, but not least, here are some tips to make our skin exam most effective:
We will look through your scalp, so please no elaborate hair dos!
No makeup is best as it can be difficult to see small lesions through thick concealer
No spray tans – while we give you a gold star for the safe tan, spray tans can make it hard to see the true color of a lesion and color is one of the factors we consider when evaluating
Skin cancers can also affect the nail plate, so ideally remove your nail polish before your appointment
Don’t lie to us! We won’t judge and it’s important to know your true skin health history. For example, if you’ve used tanning bed (even once!) your risk for melanoma is higher, and we might be more conservative about biopsy based on that (among other factors).