Healthbeat 4: Skin check screenings

Skin cancer comes in three forms: basal cell, squamous cell and the worst kind, melanoma.

"So the part that makes melanoma bad is that it tends to spread inside. Our other types of skin cancers tend to stay on the surface but melanoma is that type of cancer that can spread on the inside," says Dr. Michelle Daffer, Dermatologist, Midlands Clinic. 

Doctor Michelle Daffer, dermatologist at Midlands Clinic, says all types of skin cancers have two parts: genetics and exposure to things that damage the cells — especially ultra violent rays.

"And those light rays actually damage the cells and don’t let them grow correctly and eventually if they start to grow really funny that’s were we get skin cancer."

Dr. Daffer says they’ve seen an increase in melanoma cases among young women — her reasoning — tanning beds. 

"Even one time in the tanning bed increases your risk of developing cancer. So we’re finding that tanning beds are more deadly than cigarettes. The amount of time and the amount of exposure that tanning beds cause more damage to our cells than cigarettes do."

To protect yourself against all types of skin cancers, Dr. Daffer suggests not using tanning beds, wearing sunscreen — SPF 30 or higher –, hats and UV protection clothing.

Dr. Daffer says early detection is key.

"The earlier you catch, the better off you do. We should be seeing a reduction in cancer rates. But with simple skin checks on a regular basis we could make a big difference."

So what is a skin check? 

KTIV’s Michelle Schoening decided to have one done.

The skin check began with Dr. Daffer began with asking Michelle’s medical history. 

"We also just look too about other things just going on with the skin cause we want to know if they bleed a lot, do they have a lot of rashes, do they have other things."

Dr. Daffer uses a special light called a dermoscopy to get a closer look at each mole. 

"Actually we can see a pattern and there are some patterns that are normal patterns and there are some that lend us to think there could be some potential cancers, changes to do it. And so those actually look really good today."

If the doctor finds a mole that looks funny or concerning, then they talk to the patient about biopsying the mole to see if it’s cancerous. 

Once the exam is over, the doctor makes a record of any moles that need to be watched and how the overall skin check went. 

Overall, it took roughly 15 minutes for Dr. Daffer to check my skin. 

And while Dr. Daffer says staying inside and away from UV rays isn’t realistic — it’s just all about being sun smart. 

"It literally takes just a couple of seconds to put some extra sunscreen on, to put a shirt on, to make sure that if you’re just sitting there reading a book, you’re doing it in the shade."

Dr. Daffer suggests getting skin checks every six months or once a year. 

However, she says it’s important to do monthly skin checks on your own by knowing the ABCDEs of melanoma. 

To learn more about the ABCDEs and what to look for click here

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