I am often asked (by patients and acquaintances) whether a skin check is necessary. That is a tough question. There are no firm guidelines as to who should have a skin check and how often. Here are my general guidelines for who needs a skin check:
1. If you have a history of skin cancer (basal cell, squamous cell or melanoma), you should have a yearly skin check.
2. If you have a history of Actinic Keratosis or abnormal moles (pre-skin cancers), you should have a yearly skin check.
3. If you have a history of tanning bed exposure you should have a skin check and your doctor will determine how often you should return. Tanning beds increase risk of skin cancer significantly.
4. If your siblings have had skin cancer, you should have a skin check.
5. If you have over 50 moles, you should have at least one skin check and your doctor will determine how often you should return.
6. If you have a mole that is changing quickly (weeks to months) in size or color or has symptoms such as bleeding, itching or pain, you should at least have that mole checked.
I recommend that everyone check their own skin every couple of months to look for changes. Changing moles (see above) or sores/pimples that don’t heal in a month should be evaluated by your doctor.
Check out the American Academy of Dermatology for more information on skin cancer and to find a dermatologist in your area.