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Panel Finds Evidence Murky on Full-Body Skin Exams
Date:2/6/2009

querade as benign-appearing lesions," Salomon said. "In any patient with a prior history of skin cancer, I recommend that they self-examine on a regular basis."

If they develop a skin lesion that does not resolve within six weeks, he said, the lesion should be medically evaluated.

"Surveillance can identify obvious malignant lesions," Salomon said. "But for many lesions, surgical biopsy will be required to definitively determine if a lesion is benign or malignant. I cannot rely solely on my clinical exam for pathologic diagnosis."

"Every month I see lesions that I thought were benign and on biopsy were malignant, and vice versa," he said.

There is no substitute, he said, for a close relationship with a dermatopathologist, a specialist in diagnosing skin biopsies, when dealing with skin lesions. "While most skin cancers have low morbidity and low mortality risks, early diagnosis makes treatment easier, and early biopsy can give both patient and physician peace of mind," Salomon said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on skin cancer.

Checking Your Skin

Wondering how to know whether something on your skin is cancerous? Dr. Tracy Wolff, a medical officer at the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, says to simply follow the ABCD rule:

  • A = asymmetry of lesion
  • B = border of lesion is irregular
  • C = color is variable
  • D = diameter is larger than a pencil eraser (more than 6 millimeters)

Any skin lesions with these characteristics or any lesion that is changing should be brought to the attention of your doctor for further exam
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