Lack of Skin Cancer Screenings in Over Fifties
A new study has found that too few middle aged (and older) white Americans are getting skin cancer screenings. We all know that examining the skin surface can help identify skin cancers at an early stage, when they’re easiest to treat.
According to the research, a lack of screening is a particular problem for those without a history of skin cancer who didn’t finish high school or have any of the other common cancer screenings – mammograms, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or colorectal cancer.
Experts aren’t sure why this is happening, but raise some key the questions…
– Do people not know how important such testing is?
– Do they know where to get these screenings, and from who?
– Do they have insurance coverage for a dermatologist visit?
Perhaps there are many things playing a part. To learn more, researchers examined data from 10,486 white men and women over 50 years old who were participating in the 2005 National Health Interview Survey. The researchers found only 16% of the men, and 13% of the women reported having an examination of the skin in the past year. Skin cancer exams, like other screenings, are not happening for too many adults of this age.
Doctors might want to talk about examining the skin to patients, especially those who might not be aware of the dangers, men who have less education being most vulnerable.
Your doctor will tell you that your skin is the largest organ of your body, protecting the internal organs from harm or infection. It also helps to regulate body temperature as well as ridding the body of excess water and salt.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, with over one million new cases diagnosed every year. The American Cancer Society estimates that melanoma accounts for almost 5% of these skin cancers, but brings the largest number of skin cancer deaths. Unlike other cancers, the death rate from melanoma has been steadily rising over the last 35 years.
Beyond this most deadly type of skin cancer, there are other, less dangerous but still serious, forms as well. These include basal cell carcinoma, often found in patients with light hair, light eyes and fair complexions. Squamous cell carcinoma is another form also generally found on the skin of Caucasian people, typically appearing as nodules on the skin along the rim of the ear, face, mouth and lips.
Examining your own skin once a month for changes is a smart move, while a yearly check up by a trained dermatologist can, and does, save lives. Do your self exam in a well lit room in front of a full length mirror and use a hand mirror to check areas of the body that are hard to see. On your first exam, take your time and learn the pattern of blemishes, freckles, moles and other marks on your skin.