How often should patients have a full body skin exam?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends full body skin exams be performed annually by a board-certified dermatologist. However, patients with a history of skin cancer should have a full body skin exam performed more frequently, typically every 3 to 6 months.


Why are full body skin exams so important?

Fully body skin exams are so important because they allow for early diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers. The dermatologist will look for new growths, atypical moles, or other concerning skin lesions during the skin exam. Routine skin exams will allow the dermatologist to establish a baseline and detect suspicious skin lesions more quickly as they develop.

What can I do to prevent skin cancers?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from prolonged sun exposure and tanning bed use has been shown to contribute to the development of skin cancers. Therefore, sun protection is essential to help reduce the number of new skin cancers. The following are useful guidelines: 1) Use sunscreen on all exposed skin before going outdoors with SPF of 30 or greater and broad-spectrum UVA and UVB coverage, 2) Avoid sun exposure during peak hours from 10 am to 3 pm, 3) Cover-up with clothing that protects your arms and legs and wear a broad-brimmed hat, 4) Avoid tanning bed use, and 5) perform self-skin exams monthly.

How do I perform a self-skin exam?

Checking your skin monthly can be very helpful in the early detection of skin cancers. When you examine your skin, be sure to look at all spots, bumps, or growths on your body. You should check everywhere – from your scalp to your toes including the spaces between your toes and the bottoms of your feet. Getting into the habit of checking your skin will help you notice any new or changing skin lesions.

What is a skin biopsy?

If a skin lesion appears suspicious for a skin cancer, the dermatologist may recommend performing a skin biopsy to establish a correct diagnosis. A skin biopsy is a simple procedure in which a small sample of skin is removed using only local anesthesia. Then, this skin sample is examined microscopically to determine the diagnosis.

If you are interested in learning more about full body skin exams, please call Heller Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery to schedule your appointment!