Who Should Have an Annual Skin Check and Other Important Skin Cancer Prevention Steps

You may already know how important it is to get your skin checked annually for signs of skin cancer. But did you know that skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the US? Over 2 million Americans are diagnosed annually, more than all other cancers combined. 

Although skin cancer is common, it can usually be treated effectively if diagnosed early. 

Here at Stein Dermatology and Skin Surgery in Chula Vista, California, our team is led by Dr. Alexander Stein, an expert in preventing, diagnosing, and treating skin cancers

We recommend everyone get an annual skin check but also encourage monthly self-exams for those with additional risk factors, such as a history of skin cancer, sunburns, or tanning.

Types of skin cancer

The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma (BCC), with over 4 million cases diagnosed in the US annually. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) ranks second, with over 1 million annual cases.

Both usually develop as red nodules and scaly patches that are raised and ooze or bleed regularly. Generally, basal cell carcinoma looks like a brownish scar or flesh-toned sore, while squamous cell carcinoma is usually identified by a rough texture on your skin.

Because of their appearance, both BCC and SCC are sometimes mistaken as rashes, but they tend to grow slowly and last longer compared with normal rashes. Luckily, treatment outcomes for both BCC and SCC are generally good, but they can still be deadly if left untreated.

Melanoma is a more rare form of skin cancer but also more dangerous. Melanomas are caused by melanin-producing skin cells that create the brown pigment in your skin. They often look like misshapen moles, which can make them hard to spot. 

A melanoma can be identified using the ABCDE method when looking at any moles:

If you see a mole that looks suspicious, contact us right away. Time is of the essence. The survival rate for melanoma is 99% when detected early.

The importance of a skin check

Along with wearing sunscreen, annual skin checks are the best way to protect your skin’s health.

 While primary care physicians can provide skin checks, our board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Stein, can provide more thorough checks thanks to his years of experience identifying common and uncommon forms of skin cancer. 

During your skin check, he carefully studies your skin to identify any suspicious moles, growths, or irregularities that may indicate skin cancer. Dr. Stein has special tools he can use to highlight and examine any irregularities, especially helpful in hard-to-see areas like your back or scalp. 

He may use a biopsy to look for any cancerous or precancerous cells. If your biopsy comes back positive for cancerous cells, we offer a variety of removal procedures focused on removing the cancer while preserving your healthy tissue. 

Dr. Stein is an expert in traditional excision and state-of-the-art cryotherapy, and has pursued special training in Mohs surgery, where your cancerous lesion is removed one layer at a time to reduce damage to your surrounding healthy skin. 

Preventing skin cancer

Although skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in America, it’s also one of the easiest to prevent through healthy lifestyle changes

We recommend avoiding harmful UV rays from the sun by wearing sunscreen of 30 SPF and above daily and a wide-brim hat when outdoors. When wearing sunscreen, remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Here in sunny Southern California, we also recommend staying indoors during the sunniest midday hours if you have fair skin, burn easily, or have a family history of skin cancer. 

Additionally, we recommend all our patients avoid tanning beds and unnecessary UV exposure. Artificial tanning products can help you achieve a sun-kissed glow without the damage and cancer risks caused by tanning beds. 

Regardless of what measures you take to protect your skin, there’s no substitute for an annual skin check by a board-certified dermatologist. If you haven’t set up your annual skin check yet, contact our office at 619-357-6107 or request an appointment online today.

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