You probably know already to get a physical exam once a year and visit the dentist twice a year. But have you given any thought to regular skin exams too? The answer is likely no. But the fact is, you should have a skin exam at least once a year, if not more often.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world; 1 in 5 Americans develops skin cancer by age 70.
Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, but it has a five-year survival rate of 99% when caught early. The implication is clear: Skin exams are vital to catching skin cancer early.
So, if you spot an unusual mole on your skin, you should visit your dermatologist. Here’s more about why that’s the case, courtesy of the expert team at Melanie Adams Dermatology in Columbia, Maryland.
An unusual or atypical mole on your skin doesn’t mean you have skin cancer. What it does mean is you’ve spotted one of the risk factors for melanoma.
This is especially true if you have a family history of melanoma or any other risk factors, such as fair skin, freckles, repeated sunburns, and an inability to tan.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a normal mole and an unusual one, so here are five warning signs to look for, using an easy-to-remember system:
If you draw a line through the middle of the mole and the halves don’t match, the mole is atypical.
Common moles have smoother edges, while atypical moles have more scalloped or notched edges.
A mole that appears to be of various colors is a warning sign.
A mole larger than a pencil eraser is also a warning sign.
If you notice any changes in the mole — in size, shape, color, etc. — see your doctor.
A skin exam is vital because it gives your doctor a chance to check you thoroughly for any atypical moles or changes in your skin since your previous visit. They perform a visual inspection to evaluate your skin health, check for cancer, and diagnose any new conditions.
Your doctor should also check for moles in areas you can’t easily see on your own, such as your back, neck, buttocks, and between your toes. If they find an abnormal mole, they can advise you on removing it, whether for medical or aesthetic reasons.
Plus, regular skin exams should give you peace of mind that any problems can be dealt with quickly and effectively.
If you’ve never had a skin exam or haven’t had one recently, call Melanie Adams Dermatology to schedule an appointment or use our online scheduling tool.