Should I Be Screened for Skin Cancer?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 17, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Should I be screened for skin cancer?


Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging.net. She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force doesn't currently recommend screening the general public for skin cancer. However, many experts recommend regular screening for skin cancer for those at "high risk," which usually includes the following people:

  • Those with a personal history of previous skin cancer
  • Those with a strong family history of melanoma or multiple atypical moles
  • Those with light complexions and a history of blistering sunburns and/or freckling

The National Cancer Institute has a handy online calculator of melanoma risk, which can help doctors better estimate a person's risk of this particularly dangerous type of skin cancer.

Screening usually involves a thorough skin check every one to two years; more frequent checks may be recommended for those who've already had previous skin cancers removed. Skin cancer screenings are best done by dermatologists or other clinicians with experience in recognizing abnormal spots on the skin.

Although many experts believe that skin cancer screening is beneficial, so far it has not been proven to save lives.