Provider at Dermatology Consultants discusses the importance of regular skin exams
Skin cancer affects 1 in 5 people in the United States, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one American dies from skin cancer every hour. One of the most important ways to detect and treat skin cancer before it becomes deadly is to visit a dermatologist for a skin exam.
Skin cancers are an abnormal growth of skin cells, which are commonly caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. According to the EPA: “Both UVA and UVB rays can cause damage to your skin. Sunburn is a sign of short-term overexposure, while premature aging and skin cancer are side effects of prolonged UV exposure.”
Although it’s not as common, skin cancers can also form from scars caused by burns or disease, occupational exposure to certain chemicals, and repeated X-ray exposure. People have a higher risk if they have a history of skin cancer, burn easily, have blond or red hair and have a history of excessive sun exposure, which includes being sunburned and using a tanning bed. Additionally, people who have or have had an immune system-suppressing disease, are also at a higher risk.
Kappa M. Peddy, M.D., a provider at Dermatology Consultants for 18 years, recommends an annual skin exam as a method of skin cancer prevention and says these can either be full body or partial.
“Typically, an exam will include a review of your family history of skin cancer and any areas of concern. You can expect to get fully or partially undressed to allow for a thorough examination from head-to-toe. For females, it’s best to wear no make-up, nail polish and have hair down,” she says.
Peddy says the visit does not typically take more than 10 to 20 minutes. If something suspicious is discovered, they will most likely take a biopsy to help diagnose the skin condition.
“Skin exams are important because early detection of skin cancer provides the greatest chance of successful skin cancer treatment,” she says. “Skin cancer is most treatable when discovered early.”
Dermatology Consultants offers a variety of skin cancer services from prevention, to diagnosis and treatment.
“The dermatologists at Dermatology Consultants have a combined 150 years of dermatology experience, unmatched by any other local dermatology practice,” says Peddy. “We are patient-centered, … quality, and offer comprehensive dermatology services that include everything from general and medical dermatology to specialized skin cancer surgery.”
Other ways to prevent skin cancer include avoiding sun exposure at peak times (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), avoiding tanning beds, covering up with clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses when outside, and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (re-apply every one-and-a-half to two hours).
Despite skin cancer being the most common type of cancer in the U.S., that doesn’t mean you should always stay indoors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can stimulate production of vitamin D in the skin. Having little or no sun exposure may put a person at risk for low levels of vitamin D, but too much UV exposure from the sun or artificial sources can increase risk of skin cancers and eye disease.”
The key is to find the right balance—we need the sun, but we need to protect ourselves at the same time. The most important aspect of prevention is finding the skin cancer early, meaning it is crucial to contact your dermatologist immediately if you notice anything suspicious on your skin or think you might have skin cancer.
“If left untreated, skin cancers can continue to grow and lead to disfigurement, loss of function and/or become life threatening,” says Peddy.
Dermatology Consultants is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. They can be contacted by phone at 434-847-6132 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Dermatology Consultants online at LynchburgDermatology.com.