You hear the warnings to wear sunscreen every summer and have heard that you should even be wearing it in the winter. There are a thousand skin care products in the drugstore and countless more you can order online or browse at specialty stores. You may not burn easily and wonder what the big deal is. However, sunburns can lead to skin cancer such as melanoma, which is the most serious type of skin cancer. If you’re out in the sun a good deal or notice something different with your skin, you should visit a dermatologist to get checked out. If you are diagnosed with a skin condition, you may also want to see a dermatology specialist like a dermatopathologist for more in depth testing and diagnosis. Even if you don’t burn easily, you should still be taking sun protection very seriously. And keeping your skin safe from the sun can also help with premature aging of your skin or wrinkling, even more than those lotions and creams can.
What’s the Risk, Anyway?
There’s a huge risk of skin cancer in the United States — one in five Americans will have skin cancer at some point during their lifetime. There’s been a 2000% increase in cases of skin cancer from 1930 to the present day.
Indeed, between 40-50% of Americans who are 65 or older will have basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once in their life. Annually, there are over five million cases of skin cancer (melanoma excluded) that are treated in over three million people. Over one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed and treated every year — that’s more than the combined new cases of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common types of skin cancer, with over four million cases diagnosed every year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, with over one million cases every year. Melanoma is the skin cancer most people have heard about and as mentioned before, is the most serious type you can develop.
Is There Anything That Puts Me More at Risk?
Tanning beds can put you at serious risk and if you use one before the age of 35, the risk of getting melanoma goes up by 75%! Getting more than five sunburns can also double your risk of getting melanoma or another type of skin cancer. If you have a family history of skin cancer or melanoma, you should also be extra careful with your skin.
Additionally, having over 50 moles, atypical moles, or large moles or having light skin and freckles also tend to be more at risk and should pay close attention to their skincare regimen.
When Should I See a Dermatology Specialist?
If you have a family history of melanoma or other skin cancer, it’s recommended that you should visit a dermatologist once every six months, and in some cases, even more often. However, in most cases, visiting a dermatology specialist once a year is perfectly fine.
You may also need dermatology services for other reasons, such as severe acne, rashes, psoriasis, nail infections, or other skin conditions that are recurring or worrying.
If something comes up during your annual screening, your results may be sent to a dermatopathologist for closer inspection in a lab, who will write up a biopsy for the dermatologist. The biopsy will also offer the dermatologist extended information to help him or better treat the results.
Make sure that you check in with a dermatology specialist at least once a year and that in between visits, you’re using sunscreen liberally in all seasons. There are plenty of skincare products that now have sun protection included, from lip balms to lotions, so there’s really no excuse for not taking good care of your skin.