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Forum Name: Skin Cancer

Question: how do i keep myself safe?


 bdaycake - Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:09 pm

Ever since all the risk factors for skin cancer were made known to me (at least 5 years ago), I have tried to be really cautious with my skin and sun exposure. I have blonde hair, really light blue eyes, very fair skin, and lots of moles and freckles. And it took a lot of trial and error to realize that only SPF 50 sunscreen keeps me from getting burnt. Well, the only thing I didn't have was family history, except for my great aunt.

Well, last year my dad was diagnosed with melanoma. He caught it very early and luckily didn't need any chemo or radiation. they just removed a huge chunk of skin, so now he has a big scar on his chest. The only problem, the melenoma was not at all "textbook", if you know what I mean. It was three small red freckles on his chest. He just got them checked out because he never saw them before, but the dermatologist who looked at it just wanted to biopsy it anyway, but assured him that it was probably not melenoma. Well, it was. So basically, I have learned that it's not just the ABCD thing that determines melenoma.

So now I'm a bit scared. My dad hardly went out in the sun without loads of sunscreen. He grew up in canada too, and never really went to the beach or pool. I have been to the beach every summer of my life for vacation and grew up where it's a lot sunnier. I have been burnt a lot more than him.

I'm pretty sure I don't have any serious skin anomolies right now, just some round freckles, a few "beauty mark" type moles on my back and shoulders. But it's kid of hard to keep track of what was there before and what is there now. I guess I'm just really scared that I'll end up with three small red freckles too and not even notice if they were there before or not. Most of my freckles/moles are on my back, and shoulders, places I can't see very well.

I just turned 18 and my parents before didn't want me to get a skin cancer screening just yet, but I plan to get one as soon as I can. But my main question is how can I be sure that my skin is fine? It seems to me that skin cancer is inevitable for me and I don't want to find out too late. My dermatologist (for acne, about a year ago) recommended a routine skin cancer screening once a year, is that enought to keep me safe? I don't know, maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I don't want to catch anything too late. Any help on how to stay safe, if there is anything more to do, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks lots.
 Dr. Safaa Mahmoud - Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:34 pm

User avatar Hello,

In absence of randomized studies that provide definite standard methods or recommendations for screening and early diagnosis programs for malignant melanoma, many physicians agree that highest risk individuals (e.g. those with a strong family history of melanoma) should follow frequent self-examination and annual professional (primary care physicians or dermatologists) skin evaluation.

The screening examination is done with a source of bright light and a magnifying lens. It takes a few minutes, is safe and allows visualization of areas that are difficult to be seen by self examination like the back and posterior legs.

Some dermatologists use a dermoscopy (microscope like) that may improve the visualization and the evaluation of a pigmented lesion.

There is no recommend age for starting the screening program and you better follow up with your doctor for better evaluation and to be reassured.

Hope you find this information useful.
Please keep us updated.
Best regards.

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