Skin Cancer Report, Trends of 2020 — Dermatologist Advice


Importantly, Castillo explains that there is a misconception that skin cancer occurs only in fair complexion patients, which is incorrect. “This is why we sometimes see [darker-skinned] patients coming in at a later state,” he explains, and later-stage cancers are always more difficult to treat. “Skin cancers occur in all races, so it is important for the public to see a board-certified dermatologist if a lesion has characteristics of a skin cancer, which include rapid growth, bleeding, changing [shape, size or color], not healing, darkening or [feeling] painful.”

The biggest reason for regular skin exams, of course, is because “catching skin cancers at an earlier stage generally improves overall prognosis and outcome,” Castillo says.

Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City agrees: “When detected early, skin cancer can be completely removed,” he says. “If found too late, in some cases it can spread and be fatal.”

So, when should you book your first skin screening with a dermatologist, and how frequently should you return? “There are no current guidelines that establish when someone should get a skin exam,” explains Rebecca Hartman, a dermatologist in Boston, and instructor at Harvard Medical School. “I usually base my recommendations individually on the patient’s risk factors and preference.”

The governmental guidelines here are very murky — that is to say, there really are none. The general rules of thumb, per the National Cancer Institute, are that regular skin checks are important for those who are either high risk or have had skin cancer in the past.

What dermatologists are currently looking for in a skin screening

If you notice anything on your skin that appears out of the ordinary, it’s always smart to book an appointment with your dermatologist (to help, here’s our visual guide to identifying the warning signs of skin cancer).

Examples of this would include “lesions that are changing in color, bleeding, rapidly growing, or painful,” Castillo says. When it comes to these skin irregularities, dermatologists look out for the ABCDE rule: asymmetry, border irregularity, color variations, diameter size, and evolution or change over time.

“Besides irregular moles, your dermatologist will [also] evaluate your skin for non-melanoma skin cancer,” Zeichner explains. “We look for pearly, shiny, pink bumps that could be basal cell carcinomas or non-healing scabs that could be squamous cell carcinomas.”

Those who are at the highest risk for developing skin cancer include older individuals, those with fair skin who burn easily, those with extensive sun exposure or indoor tanning histories, those who work outdoors or are outdoor athletes, and those who may have compromised immune systems, according to Hartman.

“It’s typically a good idea to get looked over once a year starting around age 30 if you fit this description,” explains Omar Ibrahimi, a dermatologist in Stamford, Connecticut, who specializes in skin cancer. “If you have a family history of skin cancer, I would also recommend a once a year check, [and] for those with a personal recent history of skin cancer it would be more often, at least twice a year.”

Skin screening apps can be helpful, but should not substitute for an in-person exam

One other thing to note here: Continually advancing technology has also brought on a rise of apps that are designed to scan the skin using your phone’s camera, whether for dark spots and blemishes, or even early signs of skin cancer. Where skin cancer is concerned, however, this can be a case of buyer beware: A recent study found that such apps were not fully reliable in spotting all forms of skin cancer.