As we approach the summer months and spend more time outdoors, it’s important to understand your risk factors for skin cancer and how to mitigate them. Dr. Edward Monk, Mohs surgeon at Westmed Medical Group shares some risk factors for skin cancer and outlines how often you should have your skin checked by a dermatologist.
The amount of sun/ultraviolet (UV) light exposure over the course of your life is the greatest environmental factor that has a cumulative effect on the development of skin cancer. It’s important for everyone to use sunscreen and reduce UV exposure, but people with the following risk factors should be more vigilant about UV protection and annual skin cancer screenings.
- Those with a personal or family history of skin cancer.
- People with certain mole types or many moles.
- Having a lighter skin type as well as light eyes and red/blond hair put at more risk for skin cancer.
- People with a history of immunosuppression through medications (i.e. chemotherapy) or medical conditions (i.e. history of a transplant).
- Tanning beds give you high doses of UV exposure. Past and present use of them is highly correlated with risk of skin cancer. It’s best to avoid tanning beds at all costs.
- The risk of skin cancer also increases with age. As we age, certain skin changes can be seen that can be an indication of sun damage and are correlated with an increased risk of skin cancer.
Regular skin cancer screenings can catch skin cancers in an earlier stage. Dermatologists recommend that most people should at least have an annual skin exam. This is more important if you have any risk factors. If you have a history of melanoma, strong risk factors for melanoma, or recent history of basal cell or squamous cell cancer it may be recommended that you are seen by your dermatologist every few months.