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Ask A Dermatologist

Dermatologist Skin Cancer Screening

Skin cancer is on the Rise!

More and more hospitals are seeing a rapid increase in skin cancer patients. Over the past 5 years there has been an increase of patients admitted to hospitals for treatment of nearly 33%. It is a fact that the most risky form of skin cancer - malignant melanoma - and other skin cancers are on the rise. In general, skin cancer is a form of cancer that is largely avoidable by limiting exposure to sun and factors alike. But why is there such an increase if people know how to avoid it? Experts say that trends like tanning beds are a major cause of this increase. So are holidays in extremely sunny areas without properly using sun screen. Skin cancer isn’t the most avoidable type of cancer; it is also one of the sneakiest ones. This is why everyone, especially people who are exposed to sunlight a lot, should regularly check their skin. You can so this yourself, but if you want to have more certainty you can see a dermatologist for regular skin exams.

What is skin cancer exactly?

Skin cancer is defined as an uncontrolled growth of nonstandard skin cells. It takes place when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (this is mostly caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from tanning beds) sets off mutations, or other genetic defects, which lead skin cells to multiply quickly and consequently form malignant tumors.

What should you know when screening yourself?

Regularly checking yourself for skin cancer is a must. This is especially true if you’re out in the sun very often. But what should you be looking for and how do you know the difference between a mole and a melanoma? An easy way to tell the difference between a melanoma and a normal mole is to use the ‘ABCDE’ checklist:



Melanomas always have two different halves and they have an irregular shape.


Melanomas have a jagged or ragged border, unlike a normal mole.


Melanomas are a mix of two or more different colours.



Melanomas are usually larger than 6mm (0.25in).



A mole that changes in size and characteristics over time is a little more likely to be a melanoma.

Even though you should be checking yourself regularly, you should visit a qualified professional as well (on a regular basis) to do a more thorough check up. 

What happens during a screening?

A skin cancer screening is done by a medical professional, say a dermatologist. The screening is completely visual so no blood will be collected from you. The screening takes 10 to 30 minutes depending on the type of screening you are doing. If you do a full-body screening, which is recommended it will take longer. If de doctor identifies anything suspicious the screening will be done more in depth. For example he or she will make use of dermoscopy to assess all brown or black skin spots that have been identified

The main objective of a skin cancer screening it to check an individual for signs and symptoms of skin cancer to ensure early detection and improvement of treatment outcome. Most people believe that skin cancer screening is done on those who have skin cancer but in reality, it is the opposite. Skin cancer screening is most beneficial to those who are not suffering from skin cancer and is basically a preventive measure. The goal is to save lives through early detection.

The two main components of a skin cancer screening are: 

Some things that you must keep in mind as risks associated with skin cancer screen are:

Treatment may be delayed due to false-negative results

Additional diagnostic tests may be needed due to false-positive results

Scarring and infection may be caused by a biopsy

How to keep yourself safe

As we all know, prevention is better than cure. Skin cancer is as dangerous as any other form of cancer but it is easily avoidable in most cases. Several tips to keep yourself safe:

Avoid burning in the sun - The beach is a synonym for fun. And while having fun you may easily forget the sun and its harmful rays.

Stay in the shade - This is especially important between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, when the sun is at its brightest


Cover up with clothing and don’t forget UV-blocking sunglasses.

Avoid tanning and do not use UV tanning beds - getting a nice tan and glow on your skin is more harmful than you might think
  Use a broad spectrum sunscreen - choose one with an SPF of 15 or higher for daily use. For longer outdoor activities, make sure to use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Make sure that you apply sunscreen to your entire body at least thirty minutes before going in the sun and make sure that every two hours, you re-apply sunscreen and immediately after you went swimming or sporting.
  See your doctor on a yearly basis for a professional skin exam.
  Examine your skincompletely every month and where necessary inform your dermatologist of suspicious moles. With technology being so advanced these days, mobile devices enable patients to send images to a dermatologist


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