Having a skin exam to screen for skin cancer has not been shown to decrease your chance of dying from skin cancer.
During a skin exam a doctor or nurse checks the skin for moles, birthmarks, or other pigmented areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture. Skin exams to screen for skin cancer have not been shown to decrease the number of deaths from the disease.
Regular skin checks by a doctor are important for people who have
already had skin cancer. If you are checking your skin and find a worrisome change, you should report it to your doctor.
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.