Annual Skin Cancer Screening Can Be Life Saving


The sound of lawn mowers and boat motors means the transition from winter to spring is finally under way. With that comes important reminders about protecting your skin in the sun.

Practicing sun safety is key to reducing your risk of skin cancer, which is the most common cancer and accounts for more new cases each year than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.

Now is a good time to stock up with sunscreen products and to get an annual skin cancer screening. This non-invasive screening does not involve radiation exposure, only takes about 10 minutes, and can be life-saving.

“A skin cancer screening is the first line of defense for diagnosing skin cancer,” says Henry Ford dermatologist Laurie Kohen, M.D. “The earlier we can find these lesions the better the prognosis.”

During the screening, a dermatologist examines the body from head to toe using a dermatoscope, which has a magnifying lens and LED lighting to detect skin cancer and other skin conditions early. The device produces sharp, glare-free images that can help dermatologists monitor subtle changes in lesions over time, thus allowing cancerous lesions to be caught in their early stages.

An estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer and are highly curable with early detection and proper treatment. Melanoma is the third type of skin cancer and considered the most deadly if allowed to spread to other parts of the body.

How to Protect Yourself

Dr. Kohen says practicing sun safety is a year-round routine. People can perform self-exams at home, making sure to use a hand mirror to inspect hard-to-see areas like the back, back of the leg, butt and top of the head. She suggests using the ABCDEs for when to see your dermatologist for a mole or skin lesion:

  • A for asymmetry. One half is unlike the other half.
  • B is for border. An irregular or poorly defined border.
  • C is for color. Color varies from one area to another.
  • D is for diameter. Melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm (size of a pencil eraser).
  • E is for evolving. Looks different in size, shape or color than other moles or skin lesions.

These practical tips, says Dr. Kohen, can help to reduce your risk of skin cancer:

  • Wear sunscreen with a SPF 30 or higher and with broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) and water resistant protection. Re-apply every two hours.
  • Avoid the tanning booth. Research shows indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
  • Wear lip balm with sun protection and sunglasses with UV protection and a hat.
  • When possible, wear long sleeves and pants.
  • If possible, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the rays are the most intense.

To make an appointment for a skin cancer screening, visit or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Laurie Kohen is a senior staff dermatologist seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – New Center One in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center – Troy.

Categories: FeelWell