Dermatologist examining the skin on a woman's arm

Yearly Skin Exam

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer affects one out of every five Americans. More than three and a half million new cases are diagnosed each year, which is why it’s so important that you have an annual skin exam. While your family doctor or general practitioner may conduct a routine skin exam, the truth is that anything that looks unusual or abnormal will end up getting you referred to a dermatologist. So, sometimes it can be simpler to just start with a specialist.

A skin exam at a dermatologist’s office is often more detailed because you are dealing with a doctor who has been specially trained in treating conditions that affect the skin.

Dermatologists also know how to treat disorders that affect the hair, nails, and mucous membranes. There are more than 3,000 known diseases that come under the practice of dermatology — including skin cancer, acne, and disorders like psoriasis and eczema — and anyone who has skin can be at risk.

When you are preparing for your annual exam, there are some things that you can do before you even step into your dermatologist’s office. If you have any skin, nail, or hair concerns, make some notes for yourself so that you are prepared to discuss it with your dermatologist. Perhaps you’ve been having trouble with blemishes or you recently noticed a new mole. Make as many notes as possible so that you remember to ask your dermatologist during your exam.

It’s also helpful to do skin exams on yourself. Checking your own skin for potential concerns is a very simple thing to do as part of your regular health routine, though, remember it’s not a replacement for a professional medical exam. It’s actually recommended that you do this kind of self-exam monthly so you can keep track of and monitor any changes in your skin. Make notes of anything unusual or anything that you notice is a new or changing mark on your skin. Remember to check your scalp, the soles of your feet, between toes and fingers, and hard to see places like under your arms.

Your dermatologist will consider all of your concerns in addition to performing a detailed check of your skin. If they see anything that they are worried about, they will discuss the concerns with you and explain what the next steps will be, if any. Early detection is always important, so even something that looks normal to you might be something that warrants further examination.