Melanoma and Skin Cancer Screenings and Exams
What Is a Skin Cancer Screening?
A skin cancer screening is a visual inspection of your skin by a doctor who knows the signs of skin cancer
. These screenings often take less than 30 minutes.
Is Skin Cancer Screening for Me?
For many diseases and conditions, regular screening makes sense. Screenings can detect cancer at an early stage before it spreads.
Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer. Left untreated, it can cause death.
But if doctors catch it early, they can treat it before it spreads to other parts of the body. Detected at this stage, melanoma has a 98 percent five-year survival rate.
How Should I Screen Myself for Skin Cancer?
You should screen yourself for skin changes monthly. You should also get a full-body screening by your doctor yearly.
If you have risk factors for melanoma or other skin cancers, you should schedule a screening right away.
Ways to Prevent Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers
Exposure to the sun and ultraviolet (UV) rays may increase your risk of getting skin cancer or melanoma.
Using sunscreen can protect against basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. It's less clear whether sunscreen reduces melanoma risk.
The best way to lower the risk of skin cancer is to protect against outdoor UV sunlight. You can still exercise and enjoy the outdoors while being sun-safe.
Here are some tips:
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Teach your kids the shadow rule. If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are at their strongest.
- Seek shade, especially in the middle of the day when the sun's rays are strongest.
- Avoid other sources of UV light. Tanning beds and sun lamps are dangerous. They also damage your skin.
- Follow the Slip! Slop! Slap! ® and Wrap! rules:
- Slip on a shirt. When you're out in the sun, cover up with clothing to guard as much skin as you can. Choose comfy clothes made of fabrics that you can't see through when held up to the light.
- Slop on sunscreen. Use sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher. Put on a palmful amount of sunscreen to unprotected skin at least 30 minutes before outdoor activities. Do it again every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling dry, or sweating. Use sunscreen even on hazy or cloudy days.
- Slap on a hat. Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck. If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.
Wrap your sunglasses. Your sunglasses should have 100 percent UVA and UVB absorption. This provides optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.
Q&A: What Is the Importance of Cancer Screenings?
Dr. David Seastone sat down for a quick Q&A about the importance of cancer screenings.
Learn more from UPMC HealthBeat.