How Often Should I Get a Skin Exam?

As a general rule, anyone who is old enough to vote should have an annual skin exam by a qualified dermatologist. However, Dr. Melanie Adams recommends more frequent exams for some people. Depending on your situation, you may also want to do regular self-exams at home between appointments.

Why you should have an annual skin exam

The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that almost 10,000 people per day are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States. The majority of those cases are basal or squamous cell carcinomas, which are not lethal, however some of those diagnoses are melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer. Regardless of the type of skin cancer, early detection means less disruptive treatment and better outcomes. 

Plus, a skin exam is painless and doesn’t take long. Dr. Adams talks to you about your medical history, any concerns you may have about your skin, and performs a visual inspection. All in all, a skin exam usually takes around 20 minutes.

Do you have a greater risk? 

Some people have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. For example, if you have red hair and fair skin, you have a greater risk than someone with darker skin and dark hair. Other risk factors include: 

It’s important to note that the absence of risk factors doesn’t mean you can’t get skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “No matter your skin type, UV radiation from the sun and other sources can cause dangerous, lasting damage to your skin. This means that people of any ethnic background, even those who always tan or rarely burn, can still get skin cancer.” 

An annual skin exam is important, regardless of your risk!


If you do have an increased risk, Dr. Adams may recommend you come in for skin exams more often than once per year, or that you do self-exams between your appointments. A self-exam is an easy way to keep up with changes that you may not otherwise notice.

All you need to perform a self-exam of your skin is good lighting, a full-length mirror, either a hand-held mirror or someone to help you see your back, and a method for taking notes about what you see. 

Look carefully at your face, ears, neck, chest, and stomach. Note anything unusual. Then move to your underarms, your arms, palms, tops of your hands, and beneath your fingernails. 

Continue inspecting your entire body closely, looking for anything unusual or that has changed since your last exam. Don’t forget your scalp and the bottoms of your feet. 

If you have concerns regarding your risk of skin cancer, or it’s simply time for your annual exam, book an appointment with Dr. Adams today. You can request an appointment online, or you’re welcome to simply call our office in Columbia, Maryland, to schedule. 

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