Be skin smart: Visit a dermatologist

May 20, 2019


May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month—and if you don’t already have a dermatologist, there’s no better time to find one.

Dermatologists are the recognized experts in skin health. They’re the go-to doctors for diagnosing and effectively treating more than 3,000 skin, hair and nail diseases.

And when it comes to a serious condition like skin cancer, their expertise is invaluable. That’s especially true for melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. Let’s go through some of the reasons you should go see a dermatologist.

Catching skin cancer early

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. And nearly 20 die from melanoma every day. But if you see a dermatologist for regular checkups, they can spot skin cancer in its early stages. That’s when it’s highly treatable.

Dermatologists can also determine your best screening schedule based on your unique needs. They’ll factor in your:

  • Unique skin type
  • History of sun exposure
  • Family history

Better yet, dermatologists can help you prevent skin cancer. They can tell you how to care for your skin type to best reduce your risk.

DIY skin checks

In addition to going to see your dermatologist, checking your own skin monthly can also help find skin cancer early. Look for a:

  • Changing mole or a mole that looks different from your others
  • Dome-shaped growth
  • Scaly patch
  • Non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns
  • Brown or black streak under your nail

Look carefully too. Here are some tips for conducting a thorough self-check:

  • Examine your body front and back in the mirror. Then look at the right and left sides with your arms raised.
  • Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, underarms and palms.
  • Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.
  • Check your scalp and the back of your neck with a hand mirror. Part your hair for a closer look.
  • Check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror too.

If you notice anything concerning, see a dermatologist right away.

6 steps for sun safety

The sun’s harmful UV rays are the number one cause of skin cancer. To protect your skin:

  1. Dress defensively. When you’re out in the sun, cover up with clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt and pants. Wear a wide-brimmed hat too.
  2. Seek shade. Head for the shade of a leafy tree between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That’s when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  3. Always protect your skin with sunscreen. Slather or spray it on whenever you’re outside—even on cloudy days.
  4. Choose the right sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen—one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It should have an SPF of 30 or higher and be water-resistant.
  5. Don’t be skimpy. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen. Apply a generous amount to cover all your exposed skin. For most adults, that’s about 1 ounce.
  6. Reapply regularly. Apply again every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Just remember—you can’t overdue skin protection.

Find a nearby dermatologist

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