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It’s a new year. People are still trying to sort out those New Year’s resolutions. Why not keep it simple and add something highly beneficial to your weekly or monthly routine? Sound good? Skin checks. Do it. The long and short of it is that is could save your life.

You brush your teeth everyday, right? You shower on a regular basis, right? You probably shave from time to time, right? These are all normal, routinely driven things that we do in life. And while they’re all “socially responsible” behaviors, you’re probably not putting your own life in jeopardy if you forget to act on one of these items. Yet, they’re inherent. They’re a part of our active psyche. Skin checks however, are not. Why is that? It’s simple. Have a look around. See anything peculiar? Feel anything peculiar? If the answer is “yes,” get a professional opinion. As mentioned, this action and proactive preventative measure could literally save your life.

The reality is, anyone can get skin cancer. Matters not what your age is. Matters not what your skin color happens to be. It’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. When caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Catching it early involves you taking action (that, again, isn’t really any sort of taxing activity).

There are five basic steps that are involved in giving yourself a skin check:

  • Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then look at the right and left sides with your arms raised.
  • Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms, upper underarms and palms.
  • Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.
  • Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look.
  • Finally, check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.

If you notice a spot that is different from others, something that wasn’t there before or, a long existing spot that changes, itches or bleeds, you should make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

What you can expect when you come in for a scheduled skin exam:

A professional skin exam is more than just looking at your skin. It begins with your story and the relationship that you have had with the sun since you were a child.

Questions you may be asked:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • Did you have any blistering sunburns?
    • If so how many and where did they occur on your body?
  • Have you ever used tanning beds?
  • If so how frequently and have you stopped?
  • Did you use them less than 10, less than 50, less than 100 times?
  • Which family members?
  • If so, where?
  • Do you have a family history of skin cancers (specifically melanoma)?
  • If so, what kind and how do you use it?
  • Any personal history of skin cancer?
  • Any history of other cancers?
  • Do you use sun protection?
  • Do you wear sunglasses?
  • Do you get dilated eye exams done?
  • Do you wear protective sun clothing such as hats, swim shirts, etc.?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is your occupation?
  • Are you immunosuppressed and what meds do you take?

All of this background information helps us to determine one's risk, and also helps us to best educate the patients.

After the this initial Q&A session has expired, next steps are as follows:

  • A thorough skin exam is designed to look all over, even in those nooks and crannies.
    • Scalp, mouth, eyes, ears, mouth, eyes, neck, chest, back, under the breasts, groin, buttocks, arms, legs, hands, and feet are examined. We look at those nails and between your toes as well.
  • We frequently use a dermatoscope to better visualize the pigment network of your moles and freckles.
  • We may ask you to sit, stand, lay flat on the table, and even rollover… we need to get a good look at everything.

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