While most people may not adhere to this advice, it's recommended that adults visit their dermatologist at least once per year for a full body examination. This is if you're completely healthy and have no history of skin cancer. Once you see your dermatologist for an exam, and he or she gets you and your family's history, he or she may recommend that you have more than one exam per year.
Here are a few reasons you may be more at risk for skin cancer:
- You've had a previous occurrence of skin cancer.
- You have a blood relative who has had skin cancer.
- You have a mole that is suspicious in appearance.
- When you were younger, you had X-ray treatments for acne.
- You're exceptionally fair-skinned.
You should also perform regular checks on yourself to look for new moles, lumps and discoloration of your skin. There isn't a right age to begin seeing a dermatologist, but many adolescents start to help treat their acne. Dermatologists also treat athlete's foot, cold sores, rashes and hives, psoriasis, hair loss, as well as treatment of scars and warts. Any of these reasons are good enough for your first appointment, and after that, your doctor will have a recommendation as to how often you should come back for an exam. These doctors' orders are just as important as any other you'd receive from your general practitioner, specialist or dentist, so you should follow their advice.
As far as what counts as unusual when it comes to moles and other skin lesions, look for any changes in the affected area. If your mole or splotch is growing, it's time to make an appointment. If it bleeds and refuses to heal, that's also a bad sign, and you should get it checked out. The best way to avoid skin cancer is to regularly perform self checks, wear sunblock whenever you're in the sun and go to your dermatologist once a year for a thorough once-over.