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Skin Cancer Screenings More Important Than Ever
Posted: May 26, 2010
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The prevalence of skin cancer screening among adults inched higher during the first half of this decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2000, one in seven adults said they had ever undergone a head-to-toe skin exam by a dermatologist or other physician; by 2005, this figure rose to one in six. Those are still risky odds. An annual screening is ideal because finding a growth in its early stages can mean the difference between life and death.
"Most melanomas can be seen by the naked eye," adds Hollenberg. "Usually there is a long period of time when the tumor grows beneath the top layer of skin but does not penetrate the deeper layers. This slow growth means the cancer may be cured if a tumor is found before it spreads deeper." Mortality rates are directly related to the depth of the cancer. If all skin cancers were found and treated early on, the disease would be nearly 100% curable.
Researchers speculate that the popularity of tanning beds may be one cause of higher melanoma rates. Exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning lamps has been linked to both melanoma and squamous cell cancer. For young women, using tanning beds for the first time before age 35 increases melanoma risk by as much as 75%. In response to skin cancer concerns, some states now require parental consent for teenagers or ban anyone under 18 from using salon tanning beds.
Hollenberg clarifies the process and importance of vigilant screening:
How often should someone check for abnormalities? Do monthly self-exams for suspicious moles and spots. Recruit a partner for those hard-to-spot spots. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist.