Timing is everything, especially when it comes to health. Though there can be no bad time to eat healthy, get a full night's sleep or take your vitamins, much of what's tied to health and well-being can be optimized by doing it at the right time of day, week or year. ABC News has pulled together the best (and in some cases worst) times to undertake nine important health tasks, from screening for cancer to having sex.
Best Time of the Month to Do a Breast Self-Exam
Answer: Two Weeks Before Menstruation
It's long been suggested that women perform breast self exams just after menstruation, when the breast tissue is less swollen and hence lumps are more likely to be felt. The exact opposite is true however, according to Greg Anderson, founder and CEO of Cancer Recovery Foundation International.
"Particularly right after the period, you're going to find more false positives than at any other time. Really, it's the second half of the monthly cycle, before the period, known as the luteal phase, that you want to do a self-exam," he says. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment of breast cancer is a problem just getting recognized by the medical community, Anderson says.
In women 50 years old and younger, dense breasts lead to many false positives, he says. This is in part why the American Cancer Society recommends clinical breast exams only once every three years for women under 40. For women over 50, the chance of false positives is substantially lower, says Anderson.
Best Time of the Year to Check for Skin Cancer
Answer: Your Birthday
While some suspect that winter is the best time to check for skin cancer because the skin tends to be paler (and growths more visible), Dr. Jennifer Stein, associate director at New York University's Pigmented Lesion Clinic, says anytime is the best time to do a skin check.
"We'll often say get your birthday suit checked on your birthday as a way for people to remember. Really, if you see anything new or changing, you shouldn't wait for winter or your birthday or your regularly scheduled appointment. You should get it checked out right away," she says. "The earlier you catch skin cancer, the easier it is to cure and treat."
To know when a trip to the dermatologist is recommended, just remember the ABCDEs, says Stein: asymmetry (if the mole or growth is oddly shaped); border (if there is an irregular border); color (if there are multiple colors in the mole); diameter (if it's bigger than a pencil eraser) and evolving (if the growth is changing).
Best Time of the Day to Get a Colonoscopy
Answer: Bright and Early
Studies have shown that colonoscopies performed in the morning are more likely to catch abnormal growths than those performed in the afternoon. This has more to do with doctor fatigue toward the end of the work day than with the colon itself, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
In the study, doctors identified abnormal growths in 26 percent of their morning patients but 21 percent in their afternoon patients. Researchers noted that the difference in detection may also have to do with afternoon patients not taking the full precolonoscopy bowel prep (including large doses of laxatives).