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Signs You May Need a Skin Cancer Screening

More than 3 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States, making it the most common type of cancer. The good news is that many skin cancers are diagnosed early enough that they can be eradicated, largely thanks to screening.

At our practice, Dermatologist Dr. Allen Flood has extensive experience in identifying and treating skin cancers, helping his patients stay one step ahead of this potentially dangerous condition.

Here’s a look at whether you may benefit from a skin cancer screening.

The most common types of skin cancer

Before we get into screening, let’s quickly review what we’re up against when it comes to skin cancer. Each year, about 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with either basal or squamous cell skin cancer, which are rarely lethal and highly treatable. 

The third most common skin cancer is melanoma, which can be far more serious, though it only affects about 100,000 people each year. Melanoma is far more aggressive and spreads more easily, which is why early detection is critical.

To screen or not to screen

There are many factors that you should take into account when considering whether to screen for skin cancer. First, if you have a family history of skin cancer, namely melanoma, it’s always a good idea to have us closely monitor you.

Second, if you spend a fair amount of time exposed to the sun and you’re over the age of 35, we recommend that you undergo a skin cancer screening every 3-5 years.

Third, and this is one of the most important points, if you have developed irregular moles on your body, it’s a very good idea to have Dr. Flood check them out. And we place emphasis on the word “irregular” since most of us have moles scattered around our bodies.

Potentially problematic moles are ones that may be:

When it comes to melanoma, you should be especially mindful of any lesions that develop on your palms or on the soles of your feet, as well as on your fingertips or toes. Lesions can also develop in your mouth, nose, anus, or vagina. 

What happens during a screening?

During your skin cancer screening, Dr. Flood performs a visual check, paying close attention to areas that are more exposed to the sun’s radiation, as well as those areas where melanoma typically strikes.

If he finds a suspicious lesion or mole, Dr. Flood performs a punch biopsy and removes a piece of the mole to check for cancerous cells. He may also opt to excise the mole entirely, just to be on the safe side.

Based on our findings during your screening and any biopsies we may perform, we determine whether the lesion is benign or malignant and what steps, if any, we should take.

If you have more questions about whether you should screen for skin cancer, we invite you to contact our office in Washington, DC, to set up a consultation.

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