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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Skin Cancer Screening - Topic Overview

Skin cancer can be cured if found and treated early.

  • Your doctor may check your skin once a year during your annual exam. Or your doctor may suggest a skin exam more often, especially if you have:
    • Familial atypical mole and melanoma (FAM-M) syndrome. This is an inherited tendency to develop melanoma. Examine your skin every month and be examined by a doctor every 4 to 6 months, preferably by the same doctor each time.
    • Increased occupational or recreational exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
    • Abnormal moles called atypical moles (dysplastic nevi). These moles are not cancerous, but their presence is a warning of an inherited tendency to develop melanoma.
  • After reviewing evidence from studies, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has not recommended for or against routine skin cancer screening for adults at normal risk.1

Get to know your skin

Skin self-exam camera.gif is a good way to detect early skin changes that may mean melanoma. Look for any abnormal skin growth or any change in the color, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth. Check for any area of injured skin (lesion) that does not heal. Have your spouse or someone such as a close friend help you monitor your skin, especially places that are hard to see such as your scalp and back.

A careful skin exam may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine their skin once every month.

Skin cancer often appears on the trunk of men and on the legs of women.

  • 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.
  • Have your doctor check your skin during any other health exams. Most experts recommend having your skin examined at least once a year.
  • Tell your doctor about any suspicious skin growths or changes in a mole.
  • Be aware of the risk of skin cancer and the steps you can take to prevent it, including using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and staying out of the midday sun.

For more information, see the topic Protecting Your Skin From the Sun.

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