by Christina D. Ahrens, ARNP, from the Fall 2009 issue
At SBA, an important service we offer is the full body skin exam, which we recommend that all patients receive yearly. In patients with a history of skin cancer, that exam should be performed at least every six months. Furthermore, patients should perform monthly self skin checks at home.
The most common skin cancer is a basal cell carcinoma, followed by the second most common type which is a squamous cell carcinoma. Any new skin lesion, especially one that is growing, itches, bleeds or won’t heal, should be evaluated. Melanoma skin cancer is less common, but can be life-threatening. If caught early, the prognosis is excellent. When screening for melanoma, following the ABCD criteria is recommended. A stands for asymmetry, B is for irregular borders, C for different colors and D is for diameter greater than a pencil eraser.
Melanoma has been on the rise recently, especially in young women, likely due in part to tanning bed use. Just recently, the World Health Organization released a report confirming that tanning beds are indeed carcinogenic. The study found that individuals under the age of 30 who used tanning beds had a 75 percent increase in melanoma risk. Given the popularity of tanning beds in our area, as well as the sunny climate, a complete skin examination is essential.
Often patients come to our office with lesions of concern, which are entirely benign. However, following a full skin examination, lesions are often identified that patients were not aware of, that prove to be cancer. Additionally, complete self evaluation is difficult, further supporting the need for an in-office skin examination.
Dr. Polder and I are currently accepting new patients and are contracted with most insurance companies. We look forward to seeing you in the near future for your full body skin exam!