Screening for skin cancer

Friday, 18 May 2012

Screening for skin cancerIf you’ve never been for skin-cancer screening or are about to go for one, here’s what you can expect during your appointment.

There are plenty of things I know I’m supposed to do for my health that I admit I skip (and yes, 90% of them are gym-related). A skin-cancer screening, though, isn’t one of them. Nonmelanoma skin cancers may be slowly decreasing, but melanoma is on the rise – and it’s the most common cancer for my age group (25- to 29-year-olds).

I asked dermatologist Jeannette Graf, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, to demystify this important annual appointment.

"Patients fear the unknown, or they cancel their appointment because they’ve been on vacation and they feel guilty about their tan. But before they know it, six months have gone by." Graf says there’s nothing to fear. The appointment will be quick and painless – at least this time.

It only takes about 15 minutes. First, the doctor will ask you about both your family and personal skin history – whether anyone has had skin cancer, how often you’re exposed to the sun, how many sunburns you’ve had, and of course, whether you’ve ever done any indoor tanning.

You will have to strip. Once you’ve undressed, the doctor will examine every inch of your skin with a magnifying glass, from your scalp to between your toes. If you’re feeling self-conscious, remember that they’ve seen it all before and a few minutes of exposure means knowing the truth about your skin. "This is a great time for you to get familiar with your skin, too," says Graf.

No pinching, squeezing, or cutting. If you need anything removed, that will most likely happen at a later appointment. "If I see something suspicious, I’ll ask you to come back so I can take a closer look," says Graf. That’s when your doctor will schedule a mole removal or order a biopsy.

See, there really is nothing to be scared of. All it takes is 15 minutes and you’ll be better knowing than not and living with the doubt and guilt.

Written by Catherine Devine, this article originally appeared in Allure.

IMAGE: dean bertoncelj/

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Written by

Megan Kakora has helped launch the websites of, and been the online editor for, some of South Africa’s biggest glossy magazines. She believes in less-is-more, except when it comes to her collection of nail polish colours.
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  1. BeautySouthAfrica

    Hi Hess
    There is no right or wrong time – if you are concerned about a specific mole or blemish, make an appointment as soon as you are able to. If you just want a general check-up, once a year will suffice.

    6 years ago •

  1. Pannack

    I go for regular checks because I am so pale and it is not that bad!

    6 years ago •

  1. Riekie

    Everyone got to do this sooner or later

    6 years ago •

  1. Tasha

    I have been pretty good when it comes to this. But last check was a year ago and it is probably time for a next one.

    6 years ago •

  1. Botes

    Great article, ill be passing this on to my sisters and girlfriends!!!@

    7 years ago •

  1. Bella

    This is something everyone should get checked.

    7 years ago •

  1. The Ferosh 1

    15min that can save thousands of lives. not only fair skinned people should do these screenings,we dark skinned people should to even though we don’t burn easy

    7 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Stewart

    15 min check every couple of months can save a lifetime of illness.

    7 years ago •

  1. Debsie

    Cancer screening is so important these days. To many people suffering with cancer.

    7 years ago •

  1. julandism

    It is very important that any and all unusual spots and blemishes are checked out by a trusted GP or dermatologist!

    7 years ago •

  1. honey_child

    This is something we often dismiss till it’s too late…this article has really motivated me into putting my skin first!

    7 years ago •

  1. anisha

    Definately going to make an appointment with my dermatologist! Thanks for a great article!

    7 years ago •

  1. vos

    Love the article, good to know it will be painless, because i have a few dark moles on my back, i am guilty because i love the sun but after reading this article i will go for a skin-cancer screening not afraid anymore thanks for the aritcle.

    7 years ago •

  1. Mpbutterfly

    This is something that we all should check, me included. I have not been for this test yet.

    7 years ago •

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