Most of us are well aware of the warnings. We hear about it all the time-- the importance of being screened for skin cancer. But is it truly as big of a deal as commercials, paper ads, and the news make it seem? The answer is yes, being screened early for skin cancer can truly be a life or death decision. We’ll break it down for you to prove that when it comes to skin cancer, nothing is more important than being screened as soon as possible.
Skin cancer is the single most common cancer affecting patients across the globe. The Skin Cancer Foundation found that every 1 in 5 Americans will at some point develop skin cancer in their lives. But why are the numbers so high? The answer to that question lies in the main culprit of skin cancer: UV rays. Our beautiful bright star, the sun, can have deadly effects. It consistently emits ultraviolet rays. When we expose ourselves to those rays without protection (i.e, sunscreen or sunblock) our skin absorbs those harmful rays. Ultraviolet rays are highly concentrated with radiation. This radiation ruptures electrons that live inside the atoms that are in our DNA. When this process takes place, known as ionizing, our DNA becomes significantly damaged thus leading to skin cancer.
The risk of skin cancer can be minimized by wearing sunscreen, sunblock, and protective gear and also limiting your exposure to UV rays including direct sunlight and tanning beds. Yet, even if you regularly protect yourself, there is still a small chance that you could develop skin cancer.
Skin cancer, however, is a proud disease that loves to leave signs of its existence. Typically in the form of moles, cysts, and open sores, skin cancer can be easily detected. Thankfully, the signs are present in the early stages of skin cancer. This is why early detection is important. The visible signs allow doctors to detect skin cancer early enough to treat it with high hopes of success. When skin cancer is not detected and is allowed to grow and spread, the chances of successfully treating the disease decrease dramatically. Leaving skin cancer untreated can lead to major health complications and even death.
Luckily, screening is incredibly easy. Dermatologists will simply examine your body for any strange moles, unusual growths, or open sores. It is, however, absolutely necessary that you continue to be screened regularly, at least once a year, so that your dermatologist can keep track of existing moles and growths and any changes that may have occurred over time. Regular screenings will also help dermatologists catch potential skin cancer right away so treatment can begin immediately.
Screening is actually so easy that you could do it yourself. It is still strongly suggested that you visit a dermatologist for proper examination, but throughout the year you can examine yourself. To screen yourself for skin cancer, use two mirrors (preferably one stationary and one moveable mirror) to examine your body from all angles. Follow the ABCDE rules to check for problematic moles or growths: A - Asymmetry (make sure both halves of the mole or symmetrical), B - Border irregularity (ensure the borders are smooth and round), C - Color (the color should be uniform), D - Diameter (it should be no larger than the eraser of a pencil), E - Evolving (any changes in size, shape or color).
If you notice any of these features, contact a dermatologist as soon as possible.