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Skin Cancer Screening

Overview

Skin cancer may be treated more successfully if it is caught early.

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has not recommended for or against routine skin cancer screening for adults at normal risk.footnote 1 This means the USPSTF didn't find enough evidence from studies to show that all adults with a normal risk for skin cancer would benefit from having regular screening.
  • But your doctor may suggest a regularly-scheduled skin exam if your risk is higher than average because you have:
    • Abnormal moles called atypical moles (dysplastic nevi). These moles are not cancerous, but their presence could be a sign of an inherited tendency to develop melanoma.
    • Increased occupational or recreational exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
    • Familial atypical mole and melanoma (FAM-M) syndrome. This is an inherited tendency to develop melanoma. People that have it may need to check their skin every month and be examined by a doctor several times a year.

Skin self-exam

Skin cancer, including melanoma, is curable if spotted early. A careful skin exam may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers).

  • Learn the ABCDEs of early detection.

    These are the changes in a mole or skin growth that are warning signs of melanoma.

  • Examine your skin once every month.

    Get to know your moles and birthmarks. And look for any abnormal skin growth and any change in the color, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth.

  • Check for any area of skin that does not heal after an injury.
  • Ask your doctor to check your skin during health exams.

    Most experts recommend having your skin examined regularly.

  • Bring any suspicious skin growths or changes in a mole to the attention of your doctor.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2016). Screening for skin cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA, 316(4): 429–435. DOI:10.1001/jama.2016.8465. Accessed July 27, 2016.

Credits

Current as of: December 17, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology

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