If you believe that having healthy skin is as important as having healthy teeth, you should visit the dermatologist at least as often as you visit the dentist. That is to say that even people with a low risk of developing skin cancer should visit the dermatologist once a year. If you have a history of cancer or are in a high-risk group, the number of visits to the dermatologist should be tailored to your needs. Factors that raise skin cancer risk and make it necessary to visit the dermatologist more often (such as every four to six months) include being fair-skinned, having one or more childhood sunburns, advanced age, and having many moles or precancerous skin lesions such as actinic keratoses (scaly pink or brown patches that most often develop on the arms, face, and hands of fair-skinned individuals as a result of sun exposure.
Early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment of skin cancers, including melanoma. A dermatologist can use a dermatoscope to magnify areas of the skin so that pigmentation and structure can be examined. Questionable areas may be treated or partially removed for biopsy at a lab.
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