While there are thousands of skin conditions that could affect Americans over the course of their lifetimes, few are as threatening as skin cancer. This sometimes fatal illness affects an estimated one in five Americans at some point in their lives, with more than 2 million people being diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancers every year. The condition can usually be treated successfully if it is caught early, which is why many dermatology and skin cancer specialists recommend that patients examine their skin regularly. However, many dermatologist specialists find that it is not only difficult to get patients to take an interest in skin cancer prevention, but it is also challenging to explain what exactly patients should be looking for in self-exams. Now, a new study claims that showing patients pictures of cancerous moles and lesions may encourage them to conduct self-exams and even increase visits to the dermatologist.
Skin cancer is a condition commonly associated with sun exposure. Certain features, like freckles, light colored-hair or eyes, and pale skin, may make people particularly prone to developing skin cancer. Additionally, conditions which cause a high number of atypical moles, called dysplastic compound nevus, dramatically increase a person’s chances of increasing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. However, you don’t have to have risk factors like dysplastic compound nevus to develop skin cancer and melanoma: people with darker skin tones have even been known to develop cancerous moles or lesions on their soles of their feet or palms of their hand/atypical-nevuss, where their melanin levels are lower.
Regardless of risk levels, however, dermatologists often struggle to convince patients to check their skin for signs of skin cancer on a regular basis. However, a new study suggests that showing patients pictures of skin cancer dramatically increases the chances that they will check their skin: an article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers from the University of Waterloo reported that a systematic review revealed that patients checked their skin more frequently and with greater accuracy after seeing pictures of cancerous moles. In contrast, text descriptions alone were not nearly as effective. The team, which is part of the university’s School of Public Health and Health Systems, believes that the information may be able to create better patient education strategies in the future.
Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, or have risk factors for skin cancer, such as a family history or dysplastic compound nevus? Do you regularly check your skin for changes? Search for pictures of the signs of skin cancer and schedule an appointment with your local dermatologist today to inspire yourself and help you protect yourself more effectively.