With spring and summer around the corner, it’s important to get your skin checked before heading out into the sun. It also means it’s the perfect moment to see a doctor and get a skin cancer screening. “So with a screening, what we do is we look at people’s skin and we do a quick check, either head-to-toe if people desire, or if they have just one spot that they want looked at, we will look at that one lesion and have it evaluated. Dr. Michelle Daffer a dermatologist with CNOS, says a full-body screening can take as little as 10 minutes.

“We see literally thousands and thousands of spots and we get pretty good at knowing which ones are harmless and which ones are potentially harmful,” Dr. Daffer said. “They don’t take very long. We do kind of head to toe looks and really within 5-10 minutes we can look at really all of your skin.” Meteorologist Vivian Rennie volunteered to undergo a quick screening so Dr. Daffer could show us just how simple they are.

“Just kind of looking at their skin, we talk about the ABC’s of skin cancers,” Dr. Daffer said. “So we look for things that have asymmetry, we look for border changes, we look for color changed and we look for diameter. Something bigger than 6 millimeters to a centimeter in size. We say E, which is evolving, something that has changed.”

Early diagnosis is important before any cancer can spread to other organs. If detected early, the 5-year survival rate for skin cancer is 99%.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer was one of the top five cancer diagnoses in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota in 2019. Also, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Symptoms include:

  • A = asymmetrical moles or skin spots
  • B = border that is jagged or irregular
  • C = color that is uneven
  • D = diameter larger than a pea
  • E = evolved/changed over weeks or months

Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends checking your skin regularly and reporting changes to your doctor and says the best screening is a full skin examination with a dermatologist.

While it’s important to see a dermatologist for a screening every year, there are steps you can take at home to make sure nothing goes unnoticed.

“We really recommend every few months, at least twice a year, to do kind of a head-to-toe look. With the age of cell phones, it’s nice to take pictures to see if there are any new spots that have developed. Keep track of any spots that are new and that are growing.”

And if you think something might be out of the ordinary, see your doctor. “Some skin cancers will be red, some skin cancers will be flaky. They are not all brown and kind of fit into that classic pattern,” Dr. Daffer said. “So really, if something is changing, something doesn’t want to heal, something is itchy or sore, it’s always best to have it checked out.” One of the most important things you can do for your skin is to get annual screenings.