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The Value of a Full Skin Exam - Advice from a Sarasota Dermatologist

Dermatologist Full Skin Exam by
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Malignant melanomas are steadily on the increase in America. In fact, one out of fifty Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime. Non-melanoma skin cancer are even more frequent. One out of five Americans will develop a non-melanoma skin cancer sometime during their lifetimes. Because of the frequency of skin cancers, a full skin examination is an important tool to early diagnosing and treatment of these skin cancers.

A full skin examination includes visual inspection of the skin on all parts of your body. This includes face, ears, scalp, neck, back, arms, legs, hands and feet. Therefore, you will be asked to remove your clothes and put on a gown for the examination. During a full skin examination, your dermatologist is looking for suspicious moles, lesions, or growths. Usually a bright light and a magnifying tool are used to aid in inspecting your skin.

Often times, your dermatologist may suggest a full skin examination, even if you were being seen for a specific irritation. This is usually due to a fair complexion, visible lesions, or a history that is more prone for skin cancers. Dermatologists are particularly interested in performing a full skin examination if you have one or more of the following:

  • History of skin cancer.
  • History of precancerous or questionable lesions.
  • History of severe sunburn or blistering sunburns in the past.
  • Red hair and freckles.
  • Blond hair with blue eyes.
  • Family history of melanoma.
  • History of outdoor work (ex: Lifeguarding) for more than 3 summers.
  • Extensive history of suntanning or use of tanning beds.
  • History of outdoor hobbies such as golfing, sailing, and tennis.

Your dermatologist may perform a biopsy if they determine there a suspicious lesion. There are several different types of skin biopsy, depending on the size of the lesion and how much skin the dermatologist feels is necessary to properly make a diagnosis. The skin sample obtained from the biopsy is sent to a pathology lab where it is processed and examined by a pathologist. The pathologist will view various slices of the specimen in order to confirm a diagnosis. One should expect the result within one to two weeks.

Your dermatologist's goal is to provide a thorough skin examination to detect skin cancers early. Skin cancer has a 95 percent cure rate when detected early. A thorough full body skin exam should be done yearly, or more often if needed. It is also important for you to perform a self skin exam every month. Then you will be able to point out specific lesions about which you are concerned because they are growing or changing in size, color, or texture.

Bradley J. Abrams is a licensed Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine who is A.O.B.D. Board Certified in Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery. He is noted as being one of the top dermatologic surgeons in the Sarasota, Florida community.

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Bradley Abrams, D.O.

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