Skin cancer screening

Skin cancer screening is a measure from the field of prevention. The aim of screening is to detect diseases as early as possible. On the one hand, the aim is to detect preliminary stages of the disease before they manifest themselves with the typical symptoms.

In the case of tumors in particular, metastases have often already formed. On the other hand, the aim is to detect the diseases at an earlier stage, so that they can be treated more gently and healed as completely as possible. Skin cancer screening is a visual inspection of the skin surface with the aim of identifying suspicious skin lesions and thus being able to treat them at an early stage.

Skin cancer is a very common and often underestimated disease, which affects about 250,000 new patients every year in Germany. Since skin cancer usually starts out from a very narrowly defined primary tumor, early detection is particularly important for the later prognosis in this area. A further advantage of the skin is that it can be examined relatively easily and without the need for large technical equipment.

As a result, skin cancer screening is now relatively well established in Germany. Skin cancer detected at an early stage is curable in most cases. Of course, screening, which looks for diseases before they cause problems, always has the problem that some findings are detected and treated that would never have caused problems later.

Especially in the field of skin cancer screening, however, this risk of overtreatment is rather small compared to the advantages of screening. Especially since the effort for the examination is very manageable and the examination itself is neither painful nor invasive. Also the damage caused by an unnecessarily cut out birthmark is probably acceptable for most people compared to the prevention of a tumor disease.

Who is the screening for?

In principle, skin cancer screening makes sense for everyone. It is true that the risk is increased for groups of people who work a lot outdoors and are therefore exposed to UV radiation. But even people who are hardly exposed to sunlight can develop skin cancer.

Of course, one should be particularly careful with high sun exposure, frequent sunburn, especially in childhood or if one regularly visits a solarium. In addition, there are certain skin types, especially people with a particularly high number of moles and pigmentation marks, for whom skin cancer screening is considered to be useful earlier and more frequently. In Germany, the statutory health insurance generally pays for skin cancer screening from the age of 35.

However, as mentioned above, it may be advisable to screen certain skin types earlier. In this case, the health insurance company can partially cover the costs if the dermatologist gives a reason. The examination interval stipulated by the health insurance company is 2 years.

The fact that the start of the screening is not fixed until the age of 35 has, apart from economic reasons, to do with the fact that skin cancer is strongly related to the sum of UV exposure over the lifetime. Therefore, the risk of developing skin cancer increases with age. But screening can also be useful for children. Besides the skin itself, severe sunburn in childhood or other skin diseases can lead to an increased risk. Especially severe sunburn in childhood leads to an irreversible increase in risk.