Skin Cancer: FAQs and What to Look For
Skin cancer is something to be aware of year-round, but when sun is on the brain, questions regarding skin cancer often follow. Dr. Prokop, a primary care provider and dermatology specialist at St. Joe’s, helped us shed some light on your (sun)burning questions.
Do UV rays really impact skin cancer?
This won’t come as a surprise, but it’s something worth stressing: Yes, an increase in UV ray exposure puts you at an increased risk for all three types of skin cancer. This includes basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma. Th risk is the highest when excessive exposure occurs during childhood and teenage years. This means educating about and using proper sun protection should start at a young age. Even though the highest risk occurs earlier in life, the importance of sun safety never goes away—regardless of age.
What about sunburns?
Yes, sunburns too. Burning is a sign of excessive UV exposure and causes potential damage to the DNA of skin cells. This increases your risk of skin cancer.
What are the screening recommendations?
If you have a strong family history or personal history of skin cancers, the US Preventative Task Force recommends routine screenings. Though they are not necessarily recommended for average risk individuals, Dr. Prokop encourages regular self-examinations of the skin to take notice of any changes. Self-exams can even be done during tick checks.
I noticed a weird spot on my skin. Should I see a doctor?
When performing self-exams, here are the signs it’s time to seek a medical opinion:
- Pigmented lesion with recent change
- Steadily growing pigmented lesion
- Red or pink lesion that recurrently scabs or bleeds
- Rapidly growing horn like lesion
If you spot anything described in the list, visit your primary care provider. If they are suspicious of premalignant or malignant lesions, they will refer you for further investigation. A referral may also be indicated if you have a history of skin cancer, as you’ll need at least annual surveillance exams.
Stay on top of your skin health by protecting yourself and following screening recommendations.