Have you ever examined your skin and noticed something that may have not always been there before, such as acne or hives? While these skin conditions can easily be identified, other skin conditions, such as moles and sunspots, may be dismissed or go unnoticed. These types of blemishes and skin irregularities are the reason why a total body skin examination should be performed by a dermatologist annually.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed yearly. While skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, it is also the most preventable cancer when diagnosed early. The key to early diagnosis is regular annual total body skin examinations.
What is a Total Body Skin Exam?
A total-body skin exam is an examination of the skin from the head to the soles of the feet and is performed by a dermatologist. The purpose of a total-body skin examination is for early detection and treatment of skin cancers. Your dermatologist may also review with you good skincare habits.
Your dermatologist will check your skin from head to toe, noting any spots or blemishes that may need monitoring. In some cases, your dermatologist may need to use a lighted magnifier called a dermatoscope to closely view moles and other skin spots.
If a concerning spot on your skin is detected, your dermatologist will most likely perform a biopsy during that same visit. A biopsy is a procedure in which your doctor cuts and removes a small sample of skin to have it tested to see if any disease is present. The biopsy involves numbing the area with an anesthetic injection and then shaving a thin layer from the top or around the lesion.
Who Needs a Total Body Skin Exam?
If you have never been to the dermatologist, we recommend scheduling a full-body skin exam to establish a baseline and discuss with your doctor if an annual examination is needed. In most cases, annual skin exams are recommended for individuals who:
- Have a history of melanoma or other skin cancers
- Have a history of getting blistering sun burns
- Have a history of tanning bed use
- Have a large number of moles or atypical moles
- Have a history of significant sun exposure through activities, sports, or occupation
You should do your best to monitor your own skin regularly. You can perform a skin exam on yourself by using a handheld mirror and checking for any blemishes or skin irregularities. You should perform this every three to six months. You will want to check your skin to see if any moles or spots have changed in size, shape or color, are asymmetrical or are larger than ¼ inch in size.
As always, don’t forget to practice these healthy habits to protect your skin from the sun:
- Limit time in the sun and seek shade when appropriate, especially between the hours of 10 a.m and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 30 containing zinc oxide 4% every day.
- Cover up by wearing clothing and hats that protect your skin from UV rays.
At ForCare, we can help you take great care of your skin through education, prevention, and treatments for all types of skin conditions, including all forms of skin cancer. It is important to receive regular skin cancer screenings for early detection and to ensure the best possible treatment if ever needed.
To request a dermatology appointment with ForCare, click here or call (813) 773-2456.