Cute freckles… Striking beauty marks… Some are iconic (think Cindy Crawford), some make you stand out in a crowd (think Julianne Moore). But how do you know when these marks on our skin are actually the sign of something more serious?
The truth is, you may not know the difference between a beauty mark and the mark of something that could be harming you – like melanoma. And with skin cancer now the most common form of cancer in the U.S., a staggering 1 in 5 are developing it during their lifetime. Between 1992 and 2004, melanoma incidence increased 45 percent, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, an estimated 123,590 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2011.
Studies show that the risk factors for the three most common types of skin cancer include having at least one severe blistering sunburn, your amount of lifetime sun exposure, and tanning. In the U.S., skin cancer statistics increase where the sun is strong – at high elevations in the mountains and in the south.
That's why no matter where you live, it's important to get a full-body check once a year with a dermatologist, and to always check yourself from head to toe at home. As summer ends, now is a good a time as any to schedule an appointment.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT AN ANNUAL BODY CHECK
1. First, you'll need to disrobe. But a gown will be provided for you.
2.The doctor will perform a complete visual examination of your skin from head-to-toe using a magnifier like the one in the picture. It's pretty fast – about 5 minutes.
3. If he or she finds no suspicious moles or lesions during your exam, you'll be done, and can schedule another exam for the following year.
4. If any suspicious lesions are found, the dermatologist will likely recommend a biopsy to get more info. They can often perform it right there in the office during the exam.
Easy, right? So there's no reason to put it off. Do you get annual body checks? Or have you never had one before? Tell us in the comments.
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