In a survey of primary care physicians from all 50 states, 68% said they didn't routinely perform whole-body skin exams on their patients at average risk. Most cited lack of time. Yet this is no minor omission: According to a recent study, doctors are four times more likely than a patient to detect a melanoma when it's "thin"—a sign that it has been spotted early and has an excellent chance (over 90%) of being cured.
What You Should Do: Ask your doctor to look for any abnormal-looking moles whenever you have a routine checkup. There are no standard guidelines on how often you should get skin exams, but if you're at high risk experts typically recommend seeing a dermatologist once a year. And if something suspicious is spotted, remember that not all skin cancers are melanomas. Almost 90% are basal cell carcinomas, which seldom spread to internal organs (although they can grow large and destroy surrounding tissue). Another type, squamous cell carcinoma, also rarely metastasizes.