Why Annual Skin Exams are Important, and What Happens if You Do Not Get One?
Annual skin exams are important as they help identify potential skin cancers and other serious health issues. The exam is also important for monitoring the progress of a pre-existing condition such as skin cancer.
Here Are The Five (5) Reasons Why You Should Get an Annual Skin Exam
1. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.
2. Early detection is key to successful treatment of skin cancer
3. Skin cancer can be genetic, and you may not know that you have it until it’s too late
4. The earlier you catch skin cancer, the more likely it has a better prognosis (the chance of recovery).
5. Skin cancers are often slow-growing and can be cured if caught early enough
What are the Recommended Annual Skin Exam Guidelines for Men and Women?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people should get a skin exam every year. This is especially true for those who have a personal or family history of skin cancer, have fair skin, or are at risk for skin cancer.
The recommended annual skin exam guidelines for men and women are different because the risks of developing skin cancer differ between the genders. Men are more likely to develop melanoma than women, while women are more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Melanoma Is More Prevalent In Men Than Women
The organization Aim at Melanoma reported that each year, more than 197,700 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the United States. Of those, 97,920 cases will be noninvasive, while 99,780 will be invasive.
More than 57,180 men are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer each year compared to the 42,600 women diagnosed yearly. And out of the 197,700 cases of melanoma, approximately 7,650 cases result in death from the disease. Of the 7,650 death cases, more than 5,080 will be men, and 2,570 will be women.
Understanding the Link Between Gender and Melanoma
Researchers have yet to discover why men are more susceptible to melanoma than women, especially as they reach the age of 50. However, the following reasons have been listed on
St Luke’s Health Website for this discrepancy:
- Time Spent in the Sun – Men typically spend more time throughout their life in the sun than women, which can increase the risk of developing melanoma.
- Sun Protection – According to a study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, women are more likely than men to wear sunscreen, so higher melanoma rates among men may also be due in part to lower rates of sun protection.
- Differences in Skin – Men have thicker skin with less fat beneath and tend to have more collagen in their skin than women. Research shows that these differences make men’s skin more susceptible to receive more damage from the same amount of UV sunlight. Dr. Ida Orengo, a dermatologist with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, explains that other small studies also point to how women’s skin seems to re-heal the damaged skin better than men.
- Estrogen – One study discovered a potential link between estrogen and an increased immune response against melanomas. People with higher estrogen levels tend to respond better to treatment and have a higher chance of survival. Scientists discovered this connection exists in both women and obese men, both of whom are more likely to have high levels of estrogen.
- Lack of Knowledge. “Most skin cancers don’t have a symptom – that’s why people ignore things in their skin because it doesn’t hurt,” said Orengo. “Lack of knowledge in terms of how to approach screening could be a factor also. Most people first see a dermatologist when it’s too late – after a lesion is ulcerating or bleeding.”\
A Better Understanding of Melanoma
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, 1 out of 5 people living in the United States, which is estimated to be $500,000 people, are dying each year from various cancer types.
This is why it is imperative that we start using skincare as preventive care. There are several ways to minimize the risk of developing skin cancer: (1) avoid extensive exposure to the sun by wearing sunscreen and/or by using a skincare product containing vitamin D3; (2) avoid using the tanning booth too often; (3) use skincare products formulated with fewer toxic ingredients; (4) and most importantly, get your annual skin examination.
The Five (5) Most Common Skin Cancers
The five most common types of skin cancers are basal cell, squamous cell, melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and Kaposi sarcoma. To diagnose skin cancer early on and obtain the best possible treatment options, it is important to get your skin examined yearly.
Melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer and about 1 out of every 4 people will develop it in their lifetime. It’s caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which damages the skin cells and causes them to turn into cancer cells.
According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma cancer occurs when the melanocytes (the cells responsible for our skin color) begin to grow more rapidly. Cancer is one of the thirstiest diseases, and can start in nearly any part of the body. If not detected early, it can spread to other areas of the body. Although melanoma cancer is rare, it is more deadly than most because it is harder to detect and quicker to spread to other parts of the body.
The skin has three major layers: the epidermis ( the outer layer), the dermis (under the surface of the skin), and the hypodermis. All three layers play a significant role. The epidermis layer contains three main cells:
- Squamous cells: These are flat cells in the upper (outer) part of the epidermis, which are constantly shed as new ones form.
- Basal cells: These cells are in the lower part of the epidermis, called the basal cell layer. These cells constantly divide to form new cells to replace the squamous cells that wear off the skin’s surface. As these cells move up in the epidermis, they get flattered, eventually becoming squamous cells.
- Melanocytes: These are the cells that can become melanoma. They normally make a brown pigment called melanin, which gives the skin its tan or brown color. Melanin protects the deeper layers of the skin from some of the harmful effects of the sun.
The epidermis is separated from the deeper layers of skin by the basement membrane. When skin cancer becomes more advanced, it generally grows through this barrier and into the deeper layers.
Skin cancers are less prevalent in nonwhite racial-ethnic groups; yet, when they occur among these groups, those people are likely to be diagnosed at a later stage and, as a result, have a worse prognosis.
One study, for example, found that only 67% of Black melanoma cancer patients survive past the 5-year mark after being diagnosed with the disease. However, 92% of white patients make it past the 5-year survival mark. This is a rather interesting and depressing fact. This phenomenon keeps happening because Hispanic and Black patients are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stage than in non-Hispanic white patients.
According to a 2016 study, it was determined that race and ethnicity, indeed, play a significant role in the survival rate of those who have been diagnosed with this aggressive form of cancer.
Basal Cells Skin Cancer vs. Melanoma Skin Cancer
As previously stated, women are more likely to develop basal Cells skin cancer. The American Cancer Society reported that basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancer and are often related to sun exposure.
These cells are in the lower part of the epidermis, called the basal cell layer. These cells constantly divide to form new cells to replace the squamous cells that wear off the skin’s surface. As these cells move up in the epidermis, they get flattered, eventually becoming squamous cells. Skin cancers that start in the basal cell layer are called basal cell skin cancers or basal cell carcinomas.
Approximately 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas (also called basal cell cancers).These cancers usually develop in sun-exposed areas such as the face, head, and neck. They are likely to grow very slowly and tend to spread around other parts of the skin such as bone or other tissues beneath the skin before they can be detected, and if not removed completely, basal cell carcinoma can come back in the same place on the skin. People who have had basal cell skin cancers are also more likely to get new ones in other places.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association reported that more than 3 million people living in the United States are affected by non-melanoma skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. This number has increased from 145% in 1974-1984 to 263% today.
While basal cell cancer is most prevalent in people with fair skin, people of all colors are susceptible to this form of cancer. For the most part, basal cell cancer is curable as it tends to grow slowly over time, if caught early, the survival rate increases exponentially. This is why it is important to undergo a skin examination every year.
Given time to grow, this skin cancer can grow deep, injuring nerves, blood vessels, and anything else in its path. As the cancer cells pile up and form a large tumor, cancer can reach the bone beneath. This can change the way you look, and for some people, the change may be disfiguring. The most common signs of basal cell cancer are non-healing spots on the skin that may sometimes bleed.
The Cost of Cancer
We are unable to afford to get sick or die these days. This is why it is utmost important that we embrace preventive care when it comes to skincare. For example, about 4.9 million U.S. adults were treated for skin cancer each year from 2007 to 2011, for an average annual treatment cost of $8.1 billion.
This represents an increase over the period from 2002 to 2006, when about 3.4 million adults were treated for skin cancer each year, for an annual average treatment cost of $3.6 billion.
The annual cost of treating nonmelanoma skin cancer in the U.S. is estimated at $4.8 billion, while the average annual cost of treating melanoma is estimated at $3.3 billion.
Researchers estimate that there were nearly 34,000 U.S. emergency department visits related to sunburn in 2013, for an estimated total cost of $11.2 million. So, protect your skin from sun damage by wearing sunscreen and using skincare products rich with vitamin D3 and antioxidants.
How to Find the Best Dermatologist Near You For Your Annual Skin Exam?
The best dermatologist is the one that you feel the most comfortable with. You should find a doctor who understands your needs and will be able to provide you with the best care.
For Black and Brown patients, you must seek out doctors who look like you. Racism in medicine is a big problem and has been the leading cause of misdiagnosis and undiagnosed diseases. White physicians are operating with both conscious and subconscious biases, and these biases often prevent them from listening to our concerns or ordering the appropriate testing to rule out some of our concerns. This is why for Black and Brown patients, the right doctor for you may not be the one you see being paraded in front of you by the media.
You can find a dermatologist by looking up reviews on Google, asking your family and friends for recommendations, or contacting your health insurance company. Of course, you should expand your due diligence in finding the right doctor for you on social media platforms. You’ll be surprised how bold many professionals have gotten in the last five years with their deeply seated racism and/or subconscious biases.
Your Health is Priority & Getting an Annual Skin Exam is the First Step Towards Keeping it Healthy
While melanoma skin cancer makes up only 5% of all skin cancers, it is responsible for 75% of deaths among skin cancer patients. Melanoma skin cancer is both preventable and treatable. Get your annual exam today and start using skincare products rich with Antioxidants and Vitamin D.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any symptoms or illnesses. If you are feeling sad or depressed, please contact the emotional support hotline in your state.
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- American Cancer Society. “Cancer Facts and Figures 2022”. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2022.
- American Cancer Society. “Cancer Facts and Figures 2021”. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2021.
- American Cancer Society. “Cancer Facts and Figures 2020”. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2020.
- American Cancer Society. “Cancer Facts and Figures 2019”. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2019.
- American Cancer Society. “ About Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer.: July 26, 2019.
- Childhood cancer by the ICCC. In: Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al., eds.: SEER Cancer Statistics Review (CSR) 1975-2014. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute, Section 29.
- Ward-Peterson M, Acuña JM, Alkhalifah MK, Nasiri AM, Al-Akeel ES, Alkhaldi TM, Dawari SA, Aldaham SA. Association Between Race/Ethnicity and Survival of Melanoma Patients in the United States Over 3 Decades: A Secondary Analysis of SEER Data. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Apr;95(17):e3315. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000003315. PMID: 27124020; PMCID: PMC4998683.