Skin Cancer Screening

Overview

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. What looks like a harmless mole could be something much more serious. The good news is that many skin cancers are curable if they’re discovered and treated early enough. The best way to protect yourself is to see your doctor for regular skin cancer screenings and check your skin in between visits.

What to Expect

Skin cancer can develop anywhere, so during your screening your doctor will check your whole body. Your doctor will even check parts that don’t get exposed to the sun, like the skin between your toes. 

If your doctor finds moles or growths that look abnormal, he or she may remove part or all of them and send them to a lab for testing. Your doctor may also remove pre-cancerous growths (actinic keratosis) to keep them from turning into cancer.

Check your skin on your own once a month too – especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun. The most common signs of skin cancer are changes in your skin, such as sores that won’t heal and moles that change shape. If you have moles, it’s a good idea to take photos of them so you’ll know whether they’re changing over time.

Risk Factors

Anyone can get skin cancer, but it’s more common if you:

  • Are 50 or older
  • Have a family member who’s had skin cancer
  • Have light skin, hair and eyes
  • Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned

Moles may be cancerous if they:

  • Are larger in diameter than a pea 
  • Have an irregular shape (one side looks different from the other)
  • Have jagged or blurred edges (the edge of the mole looks like it’s spreading to the skin around it)
  • Have uneven or mottled colors
  • Itch, burn or bleed

If you notice any of these warning signs, contact your doctor.

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