While many people are great about things like getting their oil changed, their teeth cleaned, or their eyes examined, many folks are not very diligent about looking after their biggest organ- their skin. According to the American Cancer Society, more skin cancers are diagnosed every year in the United States than all the other cancers combined.
About 1 out of 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Even the most dangerous skin cancer, malignant melanoma, has a very high survival rate of five years if it is caught and treated at an early stage.
If you have a primary care physician (which you all should), a skin check can be included in your annual physical exam. It doesn't cost you more, nor does it really add a lot of time to the appointment.
The most important fact beyond the annual exam is that you need to examine your own skin. The easiest technique is to pay attention to anything on your skin that is new, is changing, or looks different than other areas of your skin.
Any particular spots you may notice need to be checked by your PCP or a skin specialist like a dermatologist. These professionals can then make a diagnosis and decide whether or not a skin biopsy is necessary for you.
A number of factors can increase your possible risk of developing skin cancer. If you have one or more of these, you need to have your skin scrutinized more closely and more often. The most important risk factors are the following:
- Family History- Like many other cancers, your heredity plays a major role in your susceptibility to develop skin cancer.
- Skin Type- People with lighter skin color (e.g. Fitzpatrick skin type 1-2) in particular are at higher risk for skin cancer.
- Sun Exposure- 90% of skin cancers are directly linked to long-term exposure to ultraviolet light. This sad-but-true fact is why we stress the importance of wearing sunscreen every day and avoiding tanning beds altogether. By itself, using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases the chances of developing melanoma by 75%.
- Sunburns- This is a variation of factor #3, but carries even more risk. It also emphasizes the importance of sunscreen use, especially for children. Having more than 5 sunburns during childhood doubles the risk of skin cancer over the course of your lifetime.
- Lifestyle- Smoking and chronic exposure to environmental pollution also have compounding effects on your baseline risk of skin cancer.
The bottom line is you need to pay attention to your skin, especially in terms of changes of any spot, and have it checked by your PCP or dermatologist. As with all of what we preach here at Maine Laser Skin Care, prevention is the best medicine.
Remember that no tan is a safe tan. Using sunscreen every day is by far the best thing you can do to prevent skin cancer and to decrease the appearance of premature aging.
Now that the COVID-19 quarantine restrictions have loosened up here in Maine, we will be glad to look at your skin critically and come up with a plan to catch up on your maintenance of your skin care regimen. A relaxing facial is a great place to start, and you can stock up on sunscreen while our 20% off special continues.
Call us at (207) 873-2158 for our Augusta office, or (207) 303-0125 for our Scarborough office to reserve your spot now. Until your next appointment, please stay home as often as you can, stay safe, and we will all get through this entire pandemic together.