After a quarter-century of abuse from the sun, I finally decided to have a professional have a look at my skin Why? Well…I had a 3-year period where I visited tanning beds regularly (I know, terrible…), I hardly ever wear sunscreen and, if I do, it’s the lowest level of protection, I lived in Thailand for nearly two years, I’ve gone on at least two sunny holidays a year since birth, and I’ve had burns that turn into blisters more times than I can count on two hands. All and all, I’d say I’ve royally failed in terms of responsible sun exposure.
I know I’m not alone in that.
I hadn’t noticed any worrisome moles popping up but the number of freckles on my shoulders, back, and arms had increased tenfold. And, it wasn’t just that. I realized that while I take the time to guarantee that my teeth are healthy and that my immune system is in tip-top shape, I’ve shrugged off what’s equally as important – the health of my skin.
I’ve always heard about the dangers of skin cancer and with the mobility and disposable income of the general population increasing, cases of melanoma are increasing in tandem. I hate to use fear as a tactic to get you to see the dermatologist, but facts are facts. Nearly 16,000 new cases are being reported every year in the UK alone.
After an all-over check at The London Skin and Hair Clinic, I was given the all-clear. But, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be back and that I won’t continue to monitor my skin on my own. I asked Professor Jemima Mellerio for more information about what dermatologists look for, what you can look for on your own between visits, the importance of getting annual check-ups, and what happens if she (or any other dermatologist) spots something irregular. Here’s what I learned.
Dermatologists look for patterns. A cancerous mole will present itself differently on different skin types so it’s all about spotting the difference in one mole against the rest. In general, they’ll be slightly discolored and unsymmetrical. While a mole may look ‘normal’ to the naked eye, under the dermatoscope, your dermatologist can spot things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.
Dermatologists at The London Skin and Hair Clinic recommend monitoring your own skin using the ABCDEASY method, but it’s important to get an expert opinion every now and then. A good rule: if you can vote, drink, and smoke, you should be visiting a dermatologist annually. Think of it as a right of passage!
Depending on what exactly your dermatologist finds, there are different courses of action. In some cases, they’ll simply photograph the mole or sunspot and look for changes or growth over time. Naturally, this will involve regular visits. In other cases, they’ll schedule a very simple in-office surgery to remove the mole. My eyes got wide at the word ‘surgery’ but I was assured that it was quick and that folks recover quickly, generally only left with a stitch or two and a tiny scar.
While people who are chronically exposed to the sun are more at risk to develop skin cancer, everyone over the age of 18 should be visiting a dermatologist annually. It’s a quick, hassle-free appointment that could save your life. Call The London Skin and Hair Clinic today to get more information and to book an appointment.