At the Dermatology Center at CAPS, our goal is to ensure your skin is healthy throughout all stages of life. Our board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Jaclyn Wetli, will perform a thorough evaluation of any moles, skin tags, or birthmarks on your body and diagnose skin conditions that may require further attention. From there, we’ll develop a tailored plan to address your skin health needs.
You might be wondering who should get a skin screening. Well, there is a simple answer: everyone. Even if you have very few concerns about your skin, seeing a dermatologist for a regular skin screening is one of the best ways to ensure your skin is healthy and does not have skin cancer.
What is a skin screening at the dermatologist?
When we have a visible skin concern, such as acne, hives, or breakouts, we typically notice it right away. Moles, sunspots, and other minor blemishes, however, can go unnoticed and could be a potential threat to your health.
A skin screening is a quick visual exam of your skin where your dermatologist evaluates moles, birthmarks, and other skin growths or skin markings that could be cancerous. Dermatologists will pay the most attention to spots that have an unusual color, shape, size, or texture. Although other medical providers can do skin screenings, dermatologists should perform them since they’re the most familiar with skin disorders, are trained to identify cancerous spots, and are the most equipped to diagnose and treat skin cancer.
Who should get a skin screening?
Skin cancer is one of the most common malignancies that can affect people of all ages. The incidence of skin cancer is increasing annually and is important for everyone to have a yearly skin screening.
Some people have certain characteristics that put them at a higher risk for skin cancer. If you have any of the following risk factors/characteristics, you should consider scheduling regular and more frequent skin checks with your dermatologist.
- Blonde or red hair
- Blue or green eyes
- A lighter natural skin color
- Skin that burns, freckles, or reddens easily
- Frequent exposure to UV rays
- Over 20 moles on the skin
- Age 50 or older
- Family history of skin cancer
- Personal history of skin cancer
- Taking immunosuppressive medications
- History of organ transplant
- Tanning bed use
What do dermatologists look for during skin screenings?
During your full-body skin exam, your dermatologist will check your skin for abnormalities that may require treatment. You can see a list of other conditions we treat here.
The most important part of your skin examination is the check for suspicious lesions that are either precancerous or an actual skin cancer. The most common forms of skin cancer are:
- Basal cell carcinoma: BCC is the most common type of skin cancer that may appear as an open sore that may bleed, red patch or a lesion that does not heal.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: SCC is another common type of skin cancer. It may appear as a scaly, crusty red patch on skin, white spot on the lips, or a sore that does not heal.
- Melanoma: Although this form of skin cancer is not as common, it is the most dangerous because they tend to grow rapidly and has the potential to spread to lymph nodes and other organs.
For signs of melanoma, your dermatologist will look more specifically for the following “ABCDE” signs:
- Asymmetry: During the check, the dermatologist will draw an imaginary line through the middle of the growth. If it has an odd shape or the halves do not match, it’s considered asymmetrical.
- Border: A jagged border of a growth could be a sign of cancer. Cancer-free growths usually have smooth borders.
- Color: If the color of the growth is uneven or multi-colored, then this may indicate skin cancer. Most non-cancerous growths are a single shade.
- Diameter: Cancerous growths are frequently larger, while benign marks are typically smaller in diameter (typically, smaller than a pea).
- Evolving: Benign growths tend to look the same over time, while cancerous growths may change in size, shape, color, or elevation.
Why do I need a skin check if I’ve used a tanning bed?
If you have ever used a tanning bed in your life (even if it was just one time) you need to get a skin check. Indoor tanning equipment, including beds, emits damaging UVA and UVB radiation. The amount of the radiation produced is comparable to the sun (and, in some cases, might be stronger) and causes DNA damage in skin. This could lead to a benign mole progressing into cancer or the development of skin cancer.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer (melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29%).” Research also shows that women who have used a tanning bed before they turn 30 are six times more likely to get melanoma.
How should I prepare for a skin screening?
After making an appointment at CAPS, you can expect to sit down with our friendly and professional board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Wetli, to discuss your specific concerns. If you’ve noticed any changes on your skin, you should point this out to Dr. Wetli so she can closely examine them. Changes may include new moles or moles that have changed in shape, size, color, or texture.
Once you’ve discussed any concerns, Dr. Wetli will have you change into a gown so she can perform a full-body skin exam. Skin cancer can appear on parts of your body that you may not expect or be able to see on your own like your scalp, feet, ears, and fingers. While looking over your skin, the dermatologist will use a special kind of magnifying glass with a light to further aid in the evaluation of lesions. The entire skin screening should take around 15 minutes.
What happens if the dermatologist finds something?
During the screening, if Dr. Wetli finds a possible concern, she will typically suggest that a biopsy is performed. This is a quick and simple procedure where a tissue sample is taken from the suspicious area and sent to the pathology lab to be evaluated. If the biopsy identifies an issue, you will need to make a follow-up appointment with your dermatologist to have treatment.
Another type of treatment that may be performed during the skin screening is cryotherapy. This is commonly used for precancerous lesions, called actinic keratosis (AK). Having AKs is a sign of sun damage caused by UV radiation and an indicator that a patient is at an increased risk for skin cancer. There are numerous treatment options for AKs, however, cryotherapy is a quick and simple way to have these spots fall off and prevent the development of skin cancer.
Schedule an appointment for a skin screening
While it is recommended that everyone has an annual skin screening, it is crucial for individuals who have risk factors that are mentioned above, are of middle to older age, have used indoor tanning beds or have a history of much sun exposure to have regular checks. If you are ready for your skin check, book an appointment with Dr. Wetli today! We accept most major insurance plans and service Columbus, Ohio and its surrounding areas. We look forward to helping you improve the health of your skin so you can look and feel your best.