Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: What should an exam for skin cancer include?

Q. Since having a basal cell carcinoma removed from my forehead in 1992, I've gotten a full-body examination by a dermatologist every six months. In addition to the basal cell carcinoma, I've had several melanocytic nevi removed from my back, neck, and hairline.

I recently went to a new dermatologist. My previous exams had taken about half an hour. The doctor checked my entire body under bright lights, including looks between my toes and a careful inspection of my scalp, and a nurse noted mole measurements in my medical chart. My new dermatologist just took a quick look at my back, arms, and legs — he said there's no need to examine areas that wouldn't have been sunburned in the past — and no bright lights were used. I wonder what the standard is for a full-body exam.

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