Skin Cancer Screening

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer; millions of Americans are diagnosed with it every year. There are three major types of skin cancer:

  • Basal Cell Skin Cancers
  • Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
  • Melanoma

Both basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are most common in areas of the body exposed to the sun, such as the neck, face and hands (though they can occur elsewhere). Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body.

Types of screenings for skin cancer


Monthly self-exams are recommended, especially for those at higher risk. Examine your skin carefully; use a mirror for hard-to-see areas.

Look for:

  • Any new, expanding or changing spot, bump, or mole
  • A mole that has an irregular shape, and/or areas of different colors
  • Any sore that doesn’t heal after several weeks, or that bleeds
  • Rough or scaly red patches
  • Wart-like growths

If you find any area of concern, make an appointment with your primary care provider or dermatologist.

Doctor exam and skin biopsy

Your physician will examine the area of concern, and ask you a series of questions (how long it’s been there, how it has changed, etc.)

If the doctor feels that skin cancer is a possibility, a skin biopsy may be performed. In this procedure, a sample of the skin will be taken from the affected area and examined with a microscope.

Risk factors for skin cancer

Factors that increase your risk for skin cancer include:

  • Fair skin
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • A history of sunburns
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Having many moles, or abnormal moles

That said, people with few or none of these risk factors can still get skin cancer.

Preventing skin cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. To help protect yourself, follow these tips:

  • Wear sunscreen, even in cool or cloudy weather. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays causes many types of skin cancer.
  • Avoid the sun at its strongest. This is usually between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds use UV rays.
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses and other types of protective clothing that block UV rays.