Skin cancers are more common than all other cancers combined. Collectively, their incidence is rising faster than that of any other cancer. About 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancers are serious but treatable, although some can be deadly.
When diagnosed early, the five-year survival rate for people with skin cancer is 99%. Knowing your skin cancer risk factors is an important step toward prevention.
There are currently no medical skin cancer screening tests. The best method for early detection of skin cancer is with thorough monthly self-exams of all skin. This includes under your nails and hair.
What to look for when checking your skin:
After examining your skin, let your doctor know of any concerns or changes to your skin so they can talk with you about next steps.
It’s important to know the risk factors for skin cancer. This will help you take steps to control the risk factors you can. Be aware, however, that having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get skin cancer, and people with no risk factors can still get skin cancer.
Common risk factors include:
If any concerns are brought to your provider’s attention, they will examine the area of your skin. They’ll review your skin cancer risk factors and guide you on next steps, whether that’s a referral to a dermatologist or getting a biopsy of the tissue.
If you notice anything concerning during your monthly self-exam, it’s important to share it with your primary care provider.
While there are many benefits to getting fresh air and exercise outdoors, it is important to protect your skin while doing so. Protect yourself by staying in the shade when possible, wearing protective clothing, and applying and re-applying sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.