Dermatologist recommends scan for skin cancer

CHAMPAIGN — With summer right around the corner, you may already be thinking about getting out the sunscreen.

But have you ever been screened for signs of skin cancer you may already have?

Many people should consider getting a head-to-toe skin scan, a local dermatologist advises.

"Everyone over 50 should have a baseline total skin scan," says Dr. Elizabeth Small, a recently retired dermatologist now seeing patients as a volunteer doctor for Frances Nelson Health Center and the Champaign County Christian Health Center.

Frances Nelson, at 819 Bloomington Road, C, will be offering free skin cancer screenings with Small to its patients from 8 a.m. to noon May 29, with no need for a referral beforehand. Patients can call 356-1558 or stop by to book an appointment.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with it in their lifetimes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, and the second most common form, squamous cell carcinoma, are highly treatable when found and treated early.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can also be cured when caught early. But it's projected to kill 9,480 Americans this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Melanoma is also the most common form of cancer among people ages 25-29, the dermatology organization says.

In addition to those over age 50, people at highest risk for skin cancer are women under age 30, especially if they've done a lot of tanning, Small says.

"If they have a history of using tanning beds, they should definitely have a total body scan," she said.

Others at risk are those with red or blonde hair, light colored eyes, those with an outdoor occupation, and those with a personal or family history of skin cancer or a history of sunburn and blisters, Small said.

A screening for skin cancer involves a complete body search from scalp to toes by a dermatologist, Small said.

The doctor is looking for any area of the skin that is bleeding, scabbing, changing in size, shape or color or rapidly increasing in size, she said.

To protect yourself from skin cancer, use sunscreen with at least a sun protection factor — SPF — of 30. And wear protective clothing outdoors, such as brimmed hats and long sleeves. Women can add a layer of protection on their faces by wearing makeup, she said.

More advice: Avoid full sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and avoid using tanning beds, Small said.

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