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How to monitor your skin for melanoma and other skin cancer

Prevention and early detection are key to successfully treating skin cancer. Sponsored by Swedish.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and according to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It is important to know your risks and how to monitor your skin because if detected early, most skin cancer is treatable. 

“There is a skin cancer called melanoma, which is the one where if it’s found at a later stage has a pretty high mortality rate,” said Swedish dermatologist Dr. Young Mike Choi. “But there are other non-melanoma skin cancers as well that are very common, and also if detected early, are very treatable.”

Currently, the United States Preventative Task Force does not recommend skin cancer screening examinations in otherwise asymptomatic individuals.

“That leaves it up to individuals to understand what their risks for skin cancer are and almost have to seek asking their doctor to check out their skin to look for suspicious lesions,” Dr. Choi said. 

There are both genetic and lifestyle risk factors for skin cancer. Individuals who are fair-skinned with blond or red hair and blue eyes, have freckling since childhood, and have a family history of multiple moles may be at higher risk. Those who have family members with melanoma may also be at an increased risk of skin cancer. 

To watch for melanoma, doctors suggest the ABCDE rule for monitoring moles or pigmented spots. A is for asymmetry; B – borders; C – colors; D – diameter, and E – evolution. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can appear as unresolved pimples or skin rashes. 

Any skin lesion that persists and changes in size or appearance, or has symptoms such as pain, bleeding, or itching, should be addressed with a healthcare provider.

A dermatologist visit will start with a conversation to assess risk factors. The doctor will then examine a patient’s body, including the scalp and inside of the mouth, for suspicious lesions. If a suspicious lesion is found, a decision may be made to biopsy it or continue to monitor it. Doctors often then provide counseling on your skin cancer risk and sunscreen protection.

Providence Swedish Dermatology is currently expanding its program to meet the needs of patients throughout the Puget Sound region.

“The average wait time to see a dermatologist can be from one to three months,” Dr. Choi said. “For others, it’s been six months from what I’ve heard. Swedish has really expanded their dermatology. We have five dermatologists now in different regions.”

To learn more or to make an appointment with Providence Swedish Dermatology, visit the Swedish website or call 206-386-9540. 

Segment Producer Suzie Wiley. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.