Keep your skin in check: A simple exam that can make all the difference

A skin cancer screening is an important preventative healthcare measure that adult Arizonans in their 20s or 30s should schedule once a year. “However, if you are in the sun a lot, suntan or use tanning beds, or have a family history of skin cancer you should be checked sooner,” explains Andrew Newman, DO, board-certified dermatologist and member of the HonorHealth medical staff. These annual exams are a great way to monitor your skin for any suspicious, precancerous spots that could develop over time. If found early, skin cancer is highly treatable.

Amidst COVID-19, you may feel conflicted on whether to schedule this exam or put it off to not risk exposure. Check with your dermatology office to see what measures they are taking to keep their patients safe. Skin cancer screenings should not be put off. Delaying them could risk diagnosing skin cancers at advanced stages, which could involve a more serious treatment and possibly, a worse outcome. “For people at increased risk, such as those who have had previous skin cancer, it’s especially important to maintain your regularly scheduled screenings,” says Dr. Newman.

So, what can you expect during a full body skin exam? Dr. Newman explains the process and shares a few tips on how to check your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer screening process

A skin cancer screening is a visual inspection of your skin by a board-certified dermatologist. The screening usually takes 10 minutes or longer if the provider sees any moles that look unusual. You’ll undress and put on a medical exam gown. Your provider will ask if you have any spots that concern you. Then, they will look at every inch of your body – from your face, chest, arms, back and legs, to less-visible places like your scalp, between your toes and the soles of your feet.

Check your skin

It is possible to perform a self-skin exam. Although this does not replace a regularly scheduled skin cancer screening with a dermatologist, a self-skin exam can be a great way for you to be proactive and document any suspicious moles or marks. They can then be reported to your dermatologist to be examined.

To perform a self-skin exam, use a full-length mirror to document moles on your body, so you can easily detect any changes. A hand mirror is useful to check your scalp, neck and back. Remember, skin cancer can form anywhere on the skin, not just on sun-exposed areas. If you see something unusual, please contact your dermatologist.

Reduce your risk

Applying sunscreen every day reduces the risk of developing skin cancer. This is especially important in Arizona. Dermatologists recommend using a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 30 sunscreen. There are many brands available, so pick a sunscreen that you enjoy using. Make it a habit by applying sunscreen every day, even when you are staying indoors. UV rays can still penetrate your skin while you are in your car or through the windows in your house and accelerate aging in the skin.

By wearing sunscreen and scheduling annual skin cancer screenings, you can help minimize your risk and catch any cancerous spots early, when they’re easier to treat.

Teledermatology

With the onset of COVID-19, virtual healthcare visits have become more prevalent. Teledermatology is good for medication refills, as well as acne and rosacea concerns, but you should check with your dermatologist to see how they prefer to use virtual visits to complement their regular services. A skin cancer screening must be performed in office. An occasional check of a suspicious mole can be done virtually, but it’s not recommended.
 

Find a dermatologist

If you notice anything suspicious on your skin or want to schedule a skin cancer screening, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.

Find a dermatologist