Skin Cancer Screenings

Skin cancer screenings save lives. Although you should perform a skin self-exam every month, a professional screening done by your doctor can provide a more comprehensive and accurate result.

Skin cancer screenings are as simple as going into your dermatologist's office and having them check your body for any suspicious moles or changes that could signal cancer. Dermatologists recommend yearly screenings.

You should schedule an annual skin cancer screening if:
   • You are at least 50 years old
   • You spend plenty of time outdoors and in tanning beds
   • You have a family history of skin cancer
   • You have experienced skin cancer at least once
   • You suspect you have abnormal growths and lesions on your skin
   • You're prone to getting sunburns
   • You have a lot of moles and patches around the body

What to Expect

Generally during the screening, patients change into a medical gown and lie on a table with a bright light. The doctor will scrutinize every part of the skin, using a body map to determine the exact location of moles, growths, birthmarks and any other possible skin conditions. If the growths are small or obscured, for example, by hair, the dermatologist may use a magnifying lens or a dermatoscope, a tool used to minimize biopsies and detect early melanomas.

The doctor will take notes on the asymmetry of any moles, pigmentation color, border irregularities, dimensions of the growth or lesions and any other changes of the skin. Depending on the result of the exam, the dermatologist may request a biopsy of any suspicious lesions or growths. You can expect a skin cancer screening to take approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

Skin self-exam video from the American Academy of Dermatology

Learn how to perform a comprehensive skin self-exam in this video from the American Academy of Dermatology.

Body Mole Map from the American Academy of Dermatology

Download the AAD's body mole map to keep track of the spots on your skin and note any changes year-to-year.  

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