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The Importance of Annual Skin Cancer Screenings

Perhaps you spend lots of time in the sun because of a job or maybe participation in a favorite sport. The beach is also an irresistible seasonal attraction. There’s lots to enjoy in life under the sun. However, being out and about in the daytime carries with it the exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) components of sunlight, even on cloudy days.  

Exposure to UV radiation is a leading risk factor contributing to skin cancer. It’s not the only factor, and many people have skin types or family histories that add to the risk. However, anyone can develop cancerous skin lesions and as many as 20% of all Americans will experience some form of skin cancer in their lifetimes. 

Jennifer Baron, MD specializes in Mohs surgery, a seek-and-treat technique that has a high success rate for eliminating skin cancers. Dr. Baron recommends annual skin cancer screenings, as well as more frequent self-checks at home, as the best way to identify skin cancer in its earliest stages. Here’s why annual screenings make a difference. 

Three types of cancer

Skin cancer develops from different types of skin cells. Melanocyte cells produce the pigments that color your skin as you tan, as well as providing your natural skin color. While they produce skin darkening pigment as a way to protect skin, melanocytes can be damaged by the UV rays that activate them, resulting in melanoma, the most dangerous and fast-developing form of skin cancer. 

Basal cells produce new epidermal cells, the outer layer of your skin. As new cells grow, older cells die off and shed. UV light can disrupt the DNA of basal cells, causing the mutations that lead to basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common of the three major skin cancers. Typically, it’s the easiest to eliminate since it won’t spread. 

Squamous cells are the flat cells making up the outermost layer of the epidermis. These are the cells that constantly turn over to renew your skin. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) starts when these cells grow out of control. While not as aggressive as melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma can spread through the body. 

Each type of skin cancer has its own characteristics. Melanoma is generally the easiest to spot, while BCC and SCC can resemble other skin conditions. 

The dermatoscope

A lighted magnifying instrument, the dermatoscope gives Dr. Baron a more informative view of conditions on your skin, beyond the abilities of the naked eye. Depending on the type of dermatoscope used, magnification ranges between 10 and 100 times. 

Dry or oily skin types can affect the viewing of the skin’s surface. The dermatoscope lighting system downplays light scattering for a more accurate assessment. As well as its key role in identifying skin cancers, the dermatoscope also helps to diagnose other skin conditions.

Early detection

Annual skin cancer screenings are all about early detection. Catching skin cancer in its earliest stages gives you the best chance for successful treatment with limited complications. Call Dr. Baron’s appointment hotline at 408-214-1330 to schedule your screening today.                       

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