Skin cancer screenings should be a regular part of every adult’s preventative healthcare. This quick exam protects thousands of Missouri residents from the worst cancer outcomes. Dermatologists can catch early-stage carcinomas and melanomas in people of all ages. For people in the St. Louis area, make an appointment with our Chesterfield office to get yourself checked out. How common is the risk? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.
It’s never too early to get a skin cancer screening, but especially if you’re over 40 years old and/or have a family history of skin cancer, then it’s time to stop putting this off. An initial screening provides a baseline evaluation of any moles and age spots that can change over time—information that becomes especially helpful as the skin ages. By the time you’re 50, skin cancer risk continues to accelerate, making annual screenings all that more important.
In the St. Louis metro area alone, this means that around 100,000 people should be getting dermatology checkups and skin cancer screenings each year. Turn this long-standing goal into action by scheduling an appointment. It doesn’t take long or cost much to get a skin cancer screening with West County Dermatology. And it could just save your life.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
There are a variety of risk factors that can predispose someone to developing skin cancer. Anyone can get a carcinoma or melanoma, but people with certain characteristics are at greater risk. Many of these risk factors are the result of inherited traits. According to the Centers for Disease Control, these characteristics include:
- Fair skin
- Skin that burns, reddens, or freckles easily, or becomes painful in the sun
- Blue or green eyes
- Blond or red hair
- Certain types of moles
- A large number of moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A personal history of skin cancer
Regardless of whether an individual has any of these physical characteristics, age and lifestyle factors can also heighten an individual’s chance of developing cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is a strong example. The greater St. Louis metro area averages more than 200 days of sun each year, more than most U.S. cities. The more sun exposure a person has, the greater their risk of developing skin cancer, putting Missourians at additional risk. Making sunscreen an everyday habit can help people in the St. Louis area enjoy the outdoors without putting their personal health at risk. However, even if you maintain a daily skincare routine, regular skin cancer checks should still be part of your preventative healthcare schedule.
What Happens During a Skin Cancer Screening?
A skin cancer screening is a quick examination. Upon arrival at our Chesterfield office, you will be instructed to change into an exam gown, and the doctor will ask if there are any moles that concern you. The doctor will then observe every surface of your skin, including your face, chest, arms, back, legs, and scalp—even between your toes and the soles of your feet.
Know that a visual skin check can only find moles that could be cause for concern. While a dermatologist can rule out skin cancer when examining many moles and skin spots, a visual exam cannot provide a definitive diagnosis on its own. Some types of atypical moles may be essentially indistinguishable from cancerous tumors.
The only way to diagnose skin cancer is through a biopsy. If the doctor finds nothing suspicious, this may be the end of the exam. Some moles may also be removed for cosmetic reasons, even when skin cancer is not a concern. If there is a suspicious-looking mole, you should know what to expect with a skin cancer biopsy and the skin cancer treatment recommendations that may follow.
What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
Skin cancer symptoms can indicate a range of skin conditions, and only a medical professional can conduct the tests and examination necessary to provide a skin cancer diagnosis. When a doctor conducts a skin check, they are looking for a range of characteristics present in moles and other lesions. Known as the “ABCDEs” of skin cancer, these signs include Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color irregularity, Diameter (more than ¼ inch wide), and Evolving. That said, skin cancer self-checks should look for the same characteristics. Learn more about these symptoms and what skin cancer looks like.
If you notice a skin growth exhibiting any of these signs, don’t wait for your annual skin exam to make an appointment with our Chesterfield office. It could be a skin cancer spot or something relatively harmless, but it’s always a good idea to get it checked out.
Skin Cancer in the St. Louis Metro Area
According to a health report from The Saint Louis County Department of Public Health, the incidence for skin melanoma has been on a steady increase since 2011 with similar trends observed in communities throughout Missouri. In fact, St. Louis County’s rates of skin melanoma are noticeably higher than the national rate. If there’s a silver lining, that same report found that almost 85 percent of all skin melanoma found in St. Louis County was in an early stage. If you’re worried that you’ve developed skin cancer, scheduling a quick skin cancer screening is the best way to protect yourself.
Though people in their 40s and older should prioritize skin cancer checks, melanoma is also becoming more common in children and young adults. According to new research from St. Louis University, head and neck melanoma cases in young people increased more than 50 percent in less than two decades. Missourians don’t need to use tanning beds to develop skin cancer. They don’t need to work outdoor jobs or be over 50 years old. These characteristics will increase the risk of developing skin cancer, but only regular monitoring can indicate when medical intervention is necessary. Schedule an appointment with West County Dermatology.