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Taking Care of the Skin You're In

Now that summer has officially ended, it’s time to consider scheduling a skin check with your local dermatologist. Dr. Rebecca Denniston, PA-C from Dermatology Group of Arkansas, recently went on AFMC TV to discuss some warning signs that may warrant a checkup and the overall importance of regular checkups, either by yourself or with a dermatologist. Though it may not seem like it, dermatology appointments are just as important as your dental, vision, or primary care checkups.

You can certainly do at-home skin checks. However, some things may need to be looked at a little closer by a dermatologist. Dr. Denniston says, “You will want to look out for moles, anything that has become asymmetrical, has border or color changes, or is bigger or changing in general. If something is bleeding or not healing, those are also some red flags.” Even if you aren’t particularly concerned about something on your skin, you should still come in and have an exam.

And don’t worry! Just because you find a mole doesn’t mean you have skin cancer. There are some harmless moles or freckles. “Sometimes it’s hard for the average person to tell what’s harmful and what’s not,” Dr. Denniston points out. “By coming in for a checkup, we can give you a gauge of what to look out for.”

If you think you’re thorough enough not to need a checkup, you should know that one of the benefits of seeing a dermatologist is that they perform a total body skin check. Because moles can appear in places that are hard to see, visiting a dermatologist is crucial to ensuring your skin is healthy. “We try to check you head to toe,” Dr. Denniston says. “We look through your scalp, between your toes, on the bottom of your feet, places you wouldn’t normally look.” One of the most important places to check is your back. You can’t see your own back without really struggling, so having someone like a dermatologist check your back is also beneficial.

You may not need a dermatology checkup as frequently as a vision or dental appointment. Those of you without a family history of melanoma may only need a checkup every three to five years. “If you have a lot of moles, or if your family has a history of melanoma, that’s a good reason to come in more frequently,” Dr. Denniston advises. If you’ve already had skin cancer, you may need regular checkups every couple of months or so. It all depends on various competing factors, such as how often you are out in the sun or whether you had bad sunburns as a child. Starting with a baseline skin check is beneficial for any person, no matter what age you are.

There can even be a genetic correlation with melanoma. “If you have a family history of melanoma, you don’t want to take that lightly,” Dr. Denniston warns. “Other types of skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma and squama cell carcinoma are usually from sun exposure throughout your life. Family history goes out the door at that point. Anybody could get those. The number of sunburns you’ve had in your life will increase your risk of skin cancer. Even a few bad sunburns as a kid can give you skin cancer later in life. It’s all cumulative. Skin checks are important at any age. We even see skin cancer in 20 and 30-year-olds, unfortunately.”

Sunburns increasing your risk of skin cancer begs the question: What’s the definition of a “bad” sunburn?

Most of the time, you’ll know when you’re burnt. Your skin gets red or pink. However, there can be terrible sunburns that can blister up and get much worse. Any sunburn, though, is “bad” and can lead to skin cancer later in life.

When it comes to checkups, they are usually pretty quick. “If you come in for a head-to-toe check,” Dr. Denniston says, “It probably takes about 10 minutes to look at everything thoroughly. If we have to take some spots off that may be concerning, that’s easy and only takes a couple of minutes.” While the thought of having a dermatologist cut out part of your skin may be overwhelming, it’s for your benefit, and it’s not as bad as it sounds.

The biggest key with dermatology and skin cancer is prevention. “If you can come in and have a check early, it will make a huge difference,” Dr. Denniston says. “Make sure you come in for your skin check. Wear sunscreen and pay attention to your body, even as we head into the winter.”

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Eldrina Easterly

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Chris Hughes

Office: 501-212-8742
Mobile: 501-553-7651

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