Why is it important to check your skin?

by Verónica Ruiz

Why is it important to check your skin?

The global incidence of skin cancer has increased worldwide in recent years. Specifically, a significant increase in the diagnosis and treatment of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) has been observed in the last 2 decades, not only in people over 50 years of age, but in the population under 40 years of age and particularly in young women.

This fact makes skin cancer a major health problem.

Despite technological advances that have been developed to improve the diagnosis of skin cancer, clinical or visual inspection remains paramount in this process. In addition to visual training in the recognition of malignant skin injuries and / or suspected malignancies by dermatologists and family physicians, other public health measures have been proposed to promote early detection of skin cancer.

In this sense, some interesting educational initiatives have been undertaken aimed at patients in different ways (digital advertising or brochures, mobile applications, training talks, programs or campaigns to detect skin cancer by dermatologists amongst others) with specific description of how skin reviews should be performed and what are the warning signs that can help improve the patients ability to detect suspicious injuries.

And is that, a key piece in the early detection of skin cancer is the skin self-examination by the patient.

 
Suggestions for a good skin self-examination

It is recommended to perform a self-examination once a month or once every two months, as in many cases, it is the patient or relatives, who detects a suspicious skin injury.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Completely undress yourself in a room with good light.
  • Use a mirror to check for hard to see areas such as your back and scalp, or have a family member, partner, or friend check it out.
  • Make sure you check your whole body, as skin cancer can sometimes occur in places on the body that are not exposed to the sun, like the foot soles, between your hand fingers and under your nails.
  • Take an appointment with your dermatologist in case you observe a change or a suspicious lesion.

To learn more about the alarming signs that may indicate the presence of skin cancer, click on the following links:

Warning signs of skin cancer.  When should you suspect it?

 
How often is it recommended to go your dermatologist to check your skin?

It is recommended to have at least 1 anual skin revisión with your dermatologist, since, apart from the regular self-examinations carried out by the patient, your doctor can help to recognize and eliminate suspicious skin injuries.

However, in certain situations and depending on each patient, an increase in the frequency of these skin examinations may be required, up to 2-3 times a year (or, if required, more individually):

  • Patients with a personal and / or family history of skin cancer
  • Patients with significant cutaneous sun damage (photodamage)
  • Patients with multiple moles (nevus)
  • Personal and / or family history of atypical nevi (dysplasic)

REFERENCES

  • Hamidi R, Peng D, Cockburn M. Efficacy of skin self-examination for the early detection of melanoma. Int J Dermatol 2010 Feb;49(2):126-34.
  • Leiter U, Garbe C. Epidemiology of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer: the role of sunlight. Adv Exp Med Biol 2008;624:89-103.
  • Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to prevent skin cancer by reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Am J Prev Med 2004 Dec;27(5):467-70.