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Skin cancer: When should you have your skin checked?

Published on October 21, 2016 at 14:42 / Updated on April 23, 2021 at 0:05

Before covering your skin with heavy woollens for the winter, this might be a good time to take stock of the skin damage caused by the sun over the summer. Are some exposed areas darker or more freckled? If so, it may be that you did not sufficiently protect your skin.

Depending on your susceptibility and the extent of skin that was exposed to or unprotected from solar radiation, you will be at a higher risk of skin cancer. Even if you do not develop this disease, you will be accelerating the aging of your skin: by midlife, wrinkles and leathery skin will make you look a few years older than you really are.

Unless you’ve already had a form of skin cancer, various medical associations do not feel that it is necessary for you or your doctor to perform a yearly head-to-toe check-up for skin cancer. According to these experts, there is no evidence that this practice helps save lives, and it increases the risks associated with undergoing tests or treatments for lesions that are not cancerous.

However, since the risk of relapse is significant, individuals who have already had a form of skin cancer must be examined regularly – at least once a year. This also applies to people whose parents have had skin cancer and those who have a lot of moles, since it is difficult for patients to identify a melanoma that is developing within a mole.

That said, if you notice anything suspicious on your skin, such as a mole that is changing, a rough spot, or a wound that bleeds or does not heal, you should not ignore it in the hopes that it will go away on its own. Such lesions should be examined by a doctor without delay. There is a mnemonic device for identifying suspicious skin phenomena: A, B, C, D and E. A for asymmetry, B for irregular borders, C for multiple colours, D for a diameter greater than six millimetres and E for evolving (i.e. changing or growing).

The best way to avoid skin cancer is to be diligent and use sun protection every day. Cover your skin and apply sunscreen frequently and generously, as these simple measures can make all the difference in the long term.

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