Do you need a Skin Check? Skin Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to find out.
I love being in the sun. This has been true my whole life. I am blessed with skin that tans easily, but I have had the occasional burn. My sun-worshipping ways (pass the lemon juice and tanning oil, please) combined with a toxic tanning bed relationship in my 20s, has made me seriously rethink my skincare over the last decade. As I plod ever closer to forty (222 days, but who’s counting) I am becoming more and more aware of the effects my youthful indiscretions may be having on my current physical state. What better time to pay a visit to our friends at Skin Wellness Dermatology and find out the ins and outs of getting your skin checked? Dr. Rayna Dyck was gracious enough to share some time and expertise regarding the process.
What to expect
A skin check sounds like a fairly straightforward exam. What you may NOT know is that they check ALL of your skin, even places the sun doesn’t usually touch (unless you’re on a beach in Europe, if you know what I mean). Dr. Dyck says it’s common for people to come in and be surprised when they are asked to disrobe down to their underwear, however she checks the entire body beginning at the scalp all the way down between your toes. Ideally no action will be taken the day of the exam, but there is a chance your doctor may find something they need to examine further or simply remove. Dr. Dyck says if you are unprepared for a procedures to take place the same day, she is typically comfortable allowing patients to make a follow up appointment, unless she sees something truly concerning.
“If you have skin there, you can get skin cancer there.” – Dr. Rayna Dyck
Does family history matter?
According to Dr. Dyck, a first degree relative with skin cancer can create up to a 10% increase in risk. However, skin cancer risk is not purely a genetic predisposition, but also similar practices as well. For example, if your whole family plays tennis, or golf, increased sun exposure would correlate to potential increased risk. Other causes of increased risk include organ transplant and any medication that might suppress your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off a skin cancer.
What are causes of concern?
You don’t have to be a dermatologist to know if something isn’t right with your body. Dr. Dyck recommends using “A-B-C-D-E” as a guideline.
- Asymmetry – if you draw a line through the spot, is it the same on both sides? If the answer is no, it is asymmetrical and may need to be watched.
- Borders – are the borders clear and defined? If they are not, this is a second reason to be checked.
- Color – Dr. Dyck warns of “ugly duckling” spots that are not the same color as all other moles and freckles. Be aware if a spot appears to be more than one color, as well.
- Diameter – anything larger than 6mm, roughly the size of a pencil eraser, should probably be examined by a doctor.
- Evolution – How long has the spot been there? Years or just a few months? Changes in size, color, and general appearance should also be noted.
An ounce of prevention
The easiest way to ensure an uneventful skin check, is to protect yourself from the sun. Dr. Dyck recommends making sunscreen a part of your daily routine year round. “You can get burned on cloudy days, driving in the car, or even if there is snow on the ground.” She also says a minimum of SPF of 30 should be used. Often she recommends a higher SPF, due to the fact most people don’t apply it properly or often enough. “If you go to the beach with a bottle of sunscreen and come home with the same bottle, you didn’t use enough. Additionally, sun blockers, like Zinc or Titanium Dioxide, can be even more effective and often work better for sensitive skin, like kids. They aren’t as “pretty” but they are extremely effective. Finally, consider clothing and wide brimmed hats to help block sun as well. There are some really cute items out there for everyone, “not just for 80 year old fisherman” she jokes.
Unlike other screenings, like colonoscopies and mammograms, there is no “set” time to go in for a skin check. If you have a family history or see something that bothers you, go get it looked at. The folks at Skin Wellness are friendly, the office is bright and welcoming (honestly, it feels more like a spa than a doctor’s office) and all the physicians are top notch. I have my appointment booked! If you’ve never had a skin check, take some time for yourself and get one done. In the meantime, wear your sunscreen, and don’t forget your hat!