The Importance of Full Body Skin Examinations
It’s time to talk about something that is important but might make you a bit uncomfortable. No one really loves seeing their doctor for their regular check-up. If we’re talking about your general family doctor, you can expect to get some blood taken as part of your annual physical. But, what about your dermatologist? You have seen your dermatologist recently for your annual full body skin examination right?
If you haven’t, you should reconsider it and schedule an appointment when you can. This is especially true if you’re the type of person who loves being out in the sun as often as possible. Sure, everyone experiences a bit of awkwardness if it involves your doctor looking at your body. That’s a natural feeling. But a few moments of feeling self-conscious is worth it if it could save your life. Does that sound like hyperbole? It really isn’t. Preventative care of all kinds, whether is your family doctor, dentist, or dermatologist, is designed for early intervention into possibly life threatening conditions.
Can an annual full body skin examination really make that much of a difference? Yes, it can. And here’s why developing a lifestyle that embraces prevention rather than seeking treatment after an issue you can’t ignore arises will keep you living a healthier and longer life.
Why you need a prevention mindset
You go to the doctor every year to get readings on your blood pressure or cholesterol. Why? Because it may not happen now or next week, but high numbers could mean a heart attack or stroke down the line if you don’t take preventative action. Same thing with going to the dentist. You could have gingivitis and not even know it. Gum disease doesn’t present as painful until it’ s relatively advanced. And that mole that looks a little funny on your shoulder? It could be nothing today, but it could be skin cancer in a year. Identifying the early signs of a disease can make treatment far easier and more likely to succeed. You should be doubly suspicious of new or visibly changing moles if you are exposed to direct sunlight often.
The longterm effects of the sun
Everyone should schedule an annual skin exam, but this is especially true for people who spend a lot of their time in the sun. Whether you lay out in the sun purposely all day to tan or your work keeps you outdoors most of the time, the effect is the same. Sun exposure adds up and it can increase your chances of developing skin cancer. Each time you develop sunburn, you are exponentially increasing your chances of developing skin cancer. While sunburn doesn’t mean you will definitely develop skin cancer in that area years from now, statistically speaking the chance doubles or triples depending on how much sunburn you experience.
You may have heard that up to 80% of the sun damage we experience actually occurs before age 18. While it’s true we do experience more sunburn and general UV exposure during our younger years, that doesn’t mean you should just accept the damage is done and not take preventative measures throughout your adult years. You still have many more years of life where you could be adding to your chances of developing skin cancer.
What to expect during an examination
The purpose of going for an annual full body skin examination is that it allows both you and your dermatologist to keep tabs on how your body changes. It’s much easier to identify what markings require investigating if there is something to reference from the previous year.
So, what will happen is your dermatologist will inspect your skin for any moles, marks, or irregularities and make a note of them. If this is your first exam in years, your dermatologist may opt for biopsies of any growths on your body just to be sure that they are benign. If you have been getting examined regularly, then any growths on your body will be compared to notes made during your last examination. Perhaps nothing has changed and you won’t need a biopsy. Or, if that mole was there before, it can be determined if it has changed in appearance since your last check-up. Moles that have been present for awhile but noticeably change at some point may be a sign of skin cancer. In that case, a mole that has changed in appearance will be biopsied to be sure.
There’s a good chance that the new mole you noticed on your arm is nothing. But, there is always a possibility that it’s something. Don’t take it for granted that it’s probably not skin cancer. Get it checked out. Your dermatologist may also notice things that you wouldn’t think twice about yourself. Contact us today to schedule your full body skin examination. The team at Dermatology of Boca is here to provide you with the friendly, professional care you need to stay healthy.