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Skin Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Screening - Patient Information [NCI] - Skin Cancer Screening

Tests are used to screen for different types of cancer.

Some screening tests are used because they have been shown to be helpful both in finding cancers early and in decreasing the chance of dying from these cancers. Other tests are used because they have been shown to find cancer in some people; however, it has not been proven in clinical trials that use of these tests will decrease the risk of dying from cancer.

Recommended Related to Melanoma/Skin Cancer

Understanding Skin Cancer -- Prevention

If you are at risk for skin cancer, take the following precautions whenever possible: Avoid intense sun exposure by staying out of it from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Outside, wear a hat with a brim, long sleeves, trousers, and sunglasses that block UV radiation. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher whenever you are outside. Report suspicious skin lesions to a doctor at once, especially if you have abnormal-looking moles or a family history of melanoma. Have...

Read the Understanding Skin Cancer -- Prevention article > >

Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. Cancer screening trials also are meant to show whether early detection (finding cancer before it causes symptoms) decreases a person's chance of dying from the disease. For some types of cancer, finding and treating the disease at an early stage may result in a better chance of recovery.

Clinical trials that study cancer screening methods are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Skin exams are used to screen for skin cancer.

Regular exams of the skin by both you and your doctor increase the chance of finding skin cancer early. Checking your skin every month can help you find changes that should be reported to your doctor. Regular skin checks by a doctor are important for people who have already had skin cancer.

If an area on the skin looks abnormal, a biopsy is usually done. The doctor will remove as much of the suspicious tissue as possible with a local excision. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Because it is sometimes difficult to tell if a skin growth is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer), you may want to have the biopsy sample checked by a second pathologist.

Most melanomas in the skin can be seen by the naked eye. Usually, melanoma grows for a long time under the top layer of skin (the epidermis) but does not grow into the deeper layer of skin (the dermis). This allows time for skin cancer to be found early. Melanoma is easier to cure if it is found before it spreads.

Other screening tests are being studied in clinical trials.

Screening clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: September 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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