Who Should Get a Skin Cancer Check and How Often?

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Yet we can cure melanoma and other types of skin cancer when we find and treat them at an early stage.

The only way to identify skin cancer is with a total-body skin examination. Patients who come to Plastic Surgery Specialists of Boca Raton receive comprehensive skin care, from screening for skin cancer to the expert removal of suspicious skin lesions.

We’re here to help any time you have a question about skin cancer. Meanwhile, here’s what you need to know about who should get a skin cancer check and how often you should schedule a screening.

General skin cancer screening recommendations

The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) encourage everyone to perform a skin self-examination every month. The SCF also recommends that you get a total-body skin examination every year, while the ACS has a similar guideline, suggesting you have a skin exam during your periodic checkups.

These recommendations are for everyone, regardless of their risk for skin cancer. But the most critical thing to remember about skin cancer is that your overall risk determines the frequency of your screenings. You can make the best decision about skin cancer screening after we perform a thorough evaluation and determine your risk factors.

Skin cancer risk determines screening frequency

Many variables contribute to your risk for melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. To evaluate your risk, we review your family history and your personal medical history, and we perform a baseline total-body skin exam.

Armed with this information, we can recommend how often you should schedule screenings. Yearly screenings may be perfect for you. If you have a high risk, you may need to protect your health with more frequent exams.

The most important risk factors for developing skin cancer include:

The top risk factor is your exposure to ultraviolet light, whether through natural sunlight or a tanning bed. It’s interesting to know, however, that people who tan indoors have a higher risk of developing all types of skin cancer.

Your cumulative exposure to ultraviolet light over your lifetime is a key factor. Blistering sunburns that occurred during your childhood significantly increase your risk as an adult. And living in Florida also contributes to your risk because you can enjoy outdoor activities year-round.

Role of genetics

About 10% of people who develop melanoma have a family history of skin cancer. Your risk progressively increases along with the number of family members who have been diagnosed with melanoma. Genetic mutations also contribute to melanoma, but it’s not common for these genetic changes to pass down from one generation to the next.

A few genetic conditions are associated with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. However, these inherited conditions are rare. When we talk about your family history, we can help you decide if you should consider genetic testing.

Start screening at an early age

Your age factors into your skin cancer risk simply because the longer you live, the more exposure you have to ultraviolet light. The current screening recommendations don’t offer specific guidance about the best age to start screening, but we have some advice.

You should consider having your first total-body skin examination in early adulthood. And here’s why: Melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults aged 25-29 years.

If you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing your body is clear of precancerous or cancerous growths, call Plastic Surgery Specialists of Boca Raton or request an appointment online.

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