Derm Deep Dive: Skin Cancer Awareness

April 2022

What You Should Know About Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

We’re back with another Derm Deep Dive, a series where we provide expert advice from one of our board-certified dermatologists about common skin conditions or treatments. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re speaking with Dr. Meredith Reimer, MD, about skin cancer, including early detection and prevention, and treatment.

The Importance of Skin Cancer Awareness

I have always been a proponent for greater skin cancer awareness – what it is, how and how often to check your skin, what to look for, and when to visit a dermatologist.

Early detection of skin cancer is key to making treatment more effective. While skin cancer is usually visible, it often goes undetected, leading to annual increases in skin cancer diagnoses. Did you know…

1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Anyone at any age can be diagnosed with skin cancer and should take precautions to prevent or identify skin cancer.

9,500 people in the U.S. are estimated to be diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and rates are only increasing, especially among women and individuals under the age of 40.

3 million Americans are diagnosed each year with nonmelanoma skin cancer. This type of cancer is the most common and includes ​​basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

62,260 invasive melanoma cases occurred among men in 2021, and 43,850 occurred among women, making it the fifth most common cancer among males and the sixth most common among females.

What You Can Do to Detect and Prevent Skin Cancer

To ensure you’re in tune with your skin and able to notice any new, changing, or unusual areas, I recommend a thorough self-exam once each month, in addition to seeing a board-certified dermatologist regularly for skin checks.

A self-exam requires a mirror and a bright light so you can see your skin well, and you should be sure to check areas you don’t see each day (or ever!) like your scalp, back, under the breasts, the buttocks, and the backs of your legs.

You should also keep an eye out for:

  • Moles or birthmarks that have always looked one way but suddenly seem to have become larger or thicker, or have changed in color or texture. If this mole or birthmark becomes larger than a pencil eraser, that is also an indicator that you should see your dermatologist right away.
  • A dark spot on your skin that is either new or has changed in size or appearance, similar to what you should look for with a mole or birthmark.
  • Any type of growth on the skin that is new or has changed in size and appearance, especially if it looks transparent or takes on a tan, brown, black, or multi-colored hue.
  • Any spot or sore that hurts, is itchy, bleeding, crusting, or scabbing over and will not heal, or temporarily heals and then returns.

The more regularly you conduct a self-exam, the more likely it is that you will notice a new or different spot on your skin and be able to intervene. There are elements of our skin that naturally change over time, but you should always err on the side of caution and see a board-certified dermatologist with any concerns.

At-Home Skin Checks Don’t Replace the Dermatologist

National Skin Care Awareness Month is important for reminding individuals of the importance of visiting a dermatologist for a skin check. However, I try to remind all my patients that a skin check with a dermatologist should be done at least once each year to complement self-exams.

As with any medical visit, your provider is more likely to notice something you may overlook or not see at all. I know many patients may feel hesitant to come in for a skin check, or simply feel that it isn’t necessary, but I’m hoping to dispel any concerns with a breakdown of what you can expect when you come in for a skin check.

  • Skin checks typically take 10-20 minutes depending on your needs. I will first ask if you have any specific questions or concerns, as well as for your medical and family history so I know if you’re at a higher risk for certain skin cancers.
  • For higher-risk patients, I will pay close attention to regions of the body that are susceptible to that type of skin cancer and will continue monitoring for that cancer over time.
  • I’ll conduct a head-to-toe exam, much like you would do during a self-exam. I make note of any areas on your skin that we should keep an eye on or anything that may need to be tested further.

As with any medical visit, it’s so important to vocalize any concerns or questions! Even if it is in a sensitive region of your body, or you think it’s not significant, never ignore something on your skin that concerns you. I’m here to help and I’ve seen it all!

Think of Every Month Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

When it comes to skin cancer, awareness is critical and leads to prevention and greater success rates for treatment. I’m currently accepting new patients – schedule an appointment with me at Optima Dermatology’s Macedonia, OH clinic, serving the Cleveland area, for a skin check. This will allow us to discuss your questions and concerns and begin a healthier approach to skin care