Ask a Maui Doctor: How Often Should I Get my Skin Checked?
Doctors at Minit Medical answer some of the questions submitted by readers.
Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask a Maui Doctor” column.
Q: How often should I get my skin checked living in Hawaiʻi? Are certain people more at risk than others for skin cancer?
A: For the average population it is recommended to get a yearly skin check by a skin specialist. High risk persons should be seen every six months.
People with fair skin, blond or red heads, blue or green eyes, frequent sunburns in your past, excessive UV light exposure (from sun, tanning beds, or other types of radiation), living in close proximity to the equator (i.e. Hawaiʻi), higher elevation, more than 50 moles on your body, family member with melanoma, or having poor immune system (HIV, taking immune suppressants, chemotherapy).
Coupled with yearly skin exams by a doctor, self-exams are the best way to ensure that you don’t become a statistic in the battle against skin cancer. We recommend that you see a doctor to perform a full body exam on you first, to ensure you don’t have any existing spots, freckles, or moles to be concerned with. Then you can start doing self-examination. This will alert you to changes in your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer.
For most people, once a month is ideal, but ask your doctor if you should do more frequent checks.
Click here to learn how to do a self exam.
About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Here is the Skin Cancer Foundation’s full list of skin cancer prevention tips:
– Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
– Do not let yourself burn.
– Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
– Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
– Use the right sun screen:
broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day (and in Maui make sure it’s REEF SAFE if you are going into the ocean).
– For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
– Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
– Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
– Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
– Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
– See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
Skin Cancer 101:
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Because each has many different appearances, it is important to know the early warning signs. Look especially for change of any kind.
Do not ignore a suspicious spot simply because it does not hurt. Skin cancers may be painless, but dangerous all the same. If you notice one or more of the warning signs, see a doctor right away, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin.
– A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
– A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:
-increases in size or thickness
-changes in texture
-is irregular in outline
-is bigger than 6mm or 1/4″, the size of a pencil eraser
-appears after age 21
– A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
– An open sore that does not heal within three weeks
Don’t overlook it. Don’t delay. See a physician, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin, if you note any change in an existing mole, freckle, or spot or if you find a new one with any of the warning signs of skin cancer.
**The contents of this article such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by in this article is solely at your own risk.