Skin ChecksSkin Checks | Most people have heard all the sunscreen-related advice and are aware that they shouldn’t leave their home without wearing it, no matter the weather. However, applying and reapplying sunscreen is only protective to some degree and is by no means a guarantee that your skin will remain healthy. This is why it’s essential to get a skin check from a specialist once a year. If you’re wondering why this is so important, how you can perform your own skin check and what you should look for, here is some valuable information.
Melanocytes are the cells in our skin which contain pigment. It’s exactly in those cells that melanoma develops. This is a type of cancer which normally occurs in a person’s skin, but there have also been cases of melanoma developing inside somebody’s mouth, eyes or even intestines. Melanoma isn’t only tied to one gender or skin color, although it occurs in men more often than women. In women, melanomas typically develop on the legs, whereas in men they usually form on their back. In many cases, melanomas develop from a mole, which can be noticed, since the mole changes its color, size, shape, or it starts itching. In fact, people who have a lot of moles are at a greater risk of developing melanoma. Also, those with fairer skin are at a much greater risk than those of darker skin color, which is probably why melanoma is more frequent in Australia, New Zealand, Northern Europe and North America, while Asian, African and Latin American countries note a smaller number of melanoma cases.
Melanoma is primarily caused by continuous exposure to UV light in those people who have lower levels of skin pigment. Other than those with a higher number of moles, people with a weakened immune system and those who have a family history of this kind of cancer are also at a higher risk. Melanoma is diagnosed through a biopsy and through a thorough examination of skin lesions which show signs of being cancerous. It may be prevented by avoiding direct UV light and wearing sunscreen regularly, but definitely not in all cases. The biggest danger with melanoma is that it tends to spread to other body parts, which is why it’s important to get regular checkups and catch it early if it occurs. It’s treated surgically and, when it doesn’t get a chance to spread, it has a high recovery rate. If it spreads, people use immunotherapy, radiation, chemotherapy and biologic therapy in order to survive and get cured.
Skin checks and who should perform them
The numbers related to melanoma are scary and it’s the most dangerous kind of skin cancer out there. For example, when it comes to women between 25 and 29 years of age, this is one of the most common death-causing cancers. Not noticing it in time can be deadly. However, with regular skin checks, there is a better possibility of catching it in time, and when it’s found early enough, there is about 98% chance it can be cured completely. This is why you should find a doctor to do your skin checks for you. For example, you should search for an acclaimed aesthetic clinic with reliable experts who will know exactly what they’re looking for and where to look for it. For instance, a doctor with a trained eye for skin checks will look in some places that are hidden and places which a laic wouldn’t even think to have a look at. Areas like the scalp, skin between your fingers and toes, inside and behind your ears, beneath and around your fingernails, as well as between your butt cheeks and beneath your underwear may not cross your mind as potential places for a melanoma, but a professional will know how to be thorough.
As mentioned above, people of darker skin color aren’t as prone to developing melanoma as those with fairer skin. This is simply because their skin contains more melanin, which provides them with better protection against melanoma than those with lighter skin color. However, this doesn’t at all mean that people with dark skin color are immune to melanoma. No matter what your ethnicity is, you should get your annual skin check. The only difference is that your doctor will conduct the check with more attention to places like your palms, fingernails, toenails and soles of your feet.
Self-check and how to perform it
Other than your annual skin check with your doctor, it’s also highly recommended that you do regular self-checks at home. This means that you perform a monthly self-examination, where you’ll take a close look at all your moles, freckles, birthmarks and brown spots. Of course, not all moles or freckles are bound to become skin cancer at some point, but it doesn’t hurt to observe them carefully. This is something best done after taking a bath or a shower, while your skin is completely clean. Using a big enough mirror, check even those moles or freckles which aren’t normally in your field of vision. If you need help, perhaps you can ask one of your family members, friends or your partner to take a look at some of the more difficult areas, like your back.
When examining yourself, try to do it in the same manner every time, so that you cover the same body areas and to keep track of any changes. You could start from the top of your head and move downwards. Don’t forget to check to the more hidden areas of your body and pay attention to your scalp and neck, too. It might also be useful to take photos of your moles with a ruler, so that you are momentarily aware if there is even the slightest change in size, shape or color. Look for changes in symmetry, smoothness of mole edges, whether the entire mole is of the same color and any other changes you might notice. In case of anything suspicious, it’s crucial that you get an appointment with your doctor, dermatologist or another specialist who will be able to tell you if you indeed have a reason to worry or not.
Your health isn’t something you should take for granted. It’s a privilege of those who are responsible enough to maintain it and to take good care of themselves. So, don’t skip your monthly self-check and your annual skin check with your doctor. It could mean the difference between sickness and health, and in some cases a difference between life and death.