Annual Skin Exam
In addition to doing routine skin self-exams, people should have their skin checked regularly by a doctor or nurse specialist. A doctor can do a skin exam during visits for regular checkups. People who think they have atypical moles should point them out to the doctor. It is also important to tell the doctor about any new, changing, or “ugly-looking” moles.
Sometimes it is necessary to see a dermatologist who is likely to have the most training in diseases of the skin.
Melanoma may run in families, and members of these families are at high risk for the disease. In some of these families, certain members also have a large number (usually over 100) of atypical moles. These people have an especially high risk of developing melanoma. When two or more family members develop melanoma, it is important for all of the patients’ close relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, and children above the age of 10) to see a doctor and be examined carefully for atypical moles or any signs of melanoma. The doctor can then decide how often each person needs to be seen. (Doctors may recommend that these family members have checkups every 6 months.) Anyone who has a large number of abnormal moles also should be examined regularly.
A doctor may want to watch a slightly abnormal mole closely to see whether it changes over time. Pictures taken at one visit may be compared with the appearance of the mole at the next visit. Sometimes a doctor decides that a mole should be removed so that the tissue can be examined under a microscope. The removal of a mole, called a biopsy, is usually done in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic, it generally takes only a few minutes. The patient may require stitches, and a small scar will remain after healing. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope to see whether the melanocytes are normal, dysplastic, or cancerous.
Source: National Cancer Institute
Last updated: 6/21/2010