The Body Check, Newsletter Spring/Summer 2015
Recent statistics show that approximately one in five Americans alive today will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. The majority of skin cancers detected will be basal cell carcinoma, which is a relatively slow growing skin cancer that rarely spreads. However, roughly one in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime. Unfortunately, and for reasons no one really understands, these numbers have been on the rise over the past few decades. In 2015 it is estimated that almost 140,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, while around 10,000 Americans will die from metastatic melanoma.
Although people of any skin type or ethnicity can develop skin cancer, certain individuals are at elevated risk. People with current or historically excessive exposure to natural or artificial UV light (tanning rays) are at greater risk for developing skin cancer, especially if there is a history of blistering burns. Additional risk factors include having fair skin, greater than 50 moles on the skin or large moles, immunosuppression, a personal or family history of skin cancer, and being over 50 years old.
At Advanced Dermatology, our providers offer full body checks to screen for skin cancer. After a brief patient history is taken to note any specifically concerning lesions that you may have, the assistant will provide a comfortable cloth gown into which you may change. Your provider will then complete a thorough examination of your skin. The provider’s assistant will also be present to take notes. You will be asked to uncover one body area at a time for examination, while the rest of your body remains gowned. You are always free to ask questions about anything on your skin during the exam, and likewise, your provider will always bring any concerning findings to your attention. An annual full body check should be provided for anybody with a previous skin cancer or multiple risk factors. Furthermore, patients with a more recent diagnosis of skin cancer may need to be checked every three months.
In order to provide the best possible skin exam, all providers at Advanced Dermatology use hand-held dermatoscopes. These devices provide bright, natural LED lighting and 10x polarized magnification. This allows us to see much more depth and detail than with the naked eye. In addition, high¬risk patients may be offered high¬tech digital mole mapping and analysis if needed. Such technology allows our providers to not only detect skin cancer at an earlier stage, but also to avoid unnecessary biopsies of benign lesions.
If your provider finds a lesion or lesions suspicious for skin cancer during your body check, a biopsy will be performed at that same visit. A skin biopsy is minimally invasive, takes only a few minutes, and only requires a local anesthetic. Pathology results are usually available within a few days. If a skin biopsy is found to be positive for skin cancer, complete removal will be scheduled at a later date. Also, many patients have normal moles or growths on the skin that they would like removed electively. If able, our providers try to accommodate patient requests for removals on the same day. However, procedures that are expected to take an extended period of time will need to be scheduled for a later date.
If you have not had a full body check or are due for one, please call Advanced Dermatology to schedule your visit. As we all know, it’s better to be safe than sorry!