The Importance of Screening for Skin Cancer


Melanoma ranks as the least common but deadliest form of skin cancer, causing over 75 percent of all skin cancer related deaths each year in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 96,400 new melanoma cases will be diagnosed in 2019, resulting in over 7,000 deaths.

While the number of new cases of melanoma have increased from 68,000 a year in 2009 to 96,000 in 2019, there has been a significant increase in the 5-year survival rate among patients with the disease. As with most forms of cancer, the earlier a patient receives a diagnosis, the more likely they become to make a recovery.

The estimated 5-year survival rate of patients who receive an early diagnosis (during stage 0) is roughly 99 percent in the U.S. Conversely, survival rates plummet to 63 percent once the disease spreads to the lymph nodes and just 20 percent when the disease can metastasize to the eternal organs (stage 5), according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Fortunately, this means that early detection of melanoma can dramatically increase your ability to overcome this horrible disease. Your risk of dying due to melanoma comes directly from how far along the disease is allowed to spread. Therefore, earlier detection directly leads to limiting the amount of time the disease has to grow and spread; significantly improving your overall chances of survival.

Unlike other forms of cancer that you can only detect through certain forms of medical testing, patients have the ability to spot potentially suspicious growths on their bodies. Through skin self-examinations (SSE), patients can improve their risk assessment for skin cancer and know when to schedule an exam with one of our Wilsonville dermatologists at the Dermatology Clinic.

Patients Can Help to Detect Their Own Melanomas

Studies have found that patients play a vital role in detecting their own melanomas. One such study examined 470 newly diagnosed melanoma patients for a three-year period found that up to 57 percent were able to detect signs of potential melanoma using SSE. Our own Wilsonville dermatologists have experienced this firsthand, as many patients have visited our office to complain of a new or changing mole only to subsequently receive a melanoma diagnosis. This makes it vitally important that patients fully understand just how necessary regular screening at home and our Wilsonville dermatologist office is to prevent the spread of this potentially deadly disease.

Not Enough SEE Screenings at Home

Despite the value offered by SEE screenings at home, only a minority of at-risk patients actually take the time to assess the current state of their health. One study found that only 28 percent of patients who developed melanoma performed SEE regularly. Another that examined that habits of 190 university students found that only 33 percent had performed an SSE, with only 5 percent having checked their entire body.

These stats cause a lot of concern for our Wilsonville dermatologists, especially considering the increase rate of melanoma diagnoses that are occurring in younger patients. If less than a third of patients perform SEE, it’s vital that patients receive a professional screening regularly to minimize their risk for melanoma.

Don’t let your risk for melanoma increase because of inaction. Take the time and make the effort to protect your health by making SEE and professionals screenings part of your regular health care routine.