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What Are Skin Screenings?

And When You Should Get One

From your feet to your scalp, skin care involves more than just the face. To be fully informed about your skin's health, you may need a skin screening.

"A skin screening is a total body skin examination to identify skin cancer or anything suspicious," explains Jennifer N. Choi, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine. "It starts at the scalp and goes down to include every single part of the body."

It is understandable to be apprehensive about a skin screening, says Dr. Choi. But she assures that your comfort is a priority. During the screening, you wear a gown, and the clinician only removes the gown from the body area they are currently examining.

Recognizing Risk

Dr. Choi says you should seek out a skin screening if you have notable risk factors for skin cancer, such as:

  • Fair skin
  • A history of blistering sunburns
  • A history of tanning bed use
  • First-degree family history of melanoma
  • Immunosuppression

If you have a personal history of skin cancer, a home skin screening may also be beneficial, as it can help detect skin cancers at an earlier stage. For these self-exams, Dr. Choi says to look at any part of your body that you can see yourself. You can also use a large mirror to see the parts you cannot normally see.

Prevention and Care

Protect your skin from the sun to decrease your risk for developing skin cancer. Dr. Choi says to cover up as much as you can and to seek shade during peak sunshine time, from 10 am to 4 pm. Even in winter, you get a lot of UV ray exposure from the sun, so applying a broad spectrum sunscreen year-round is key.

Whether it be from sun exposure or genetic risk factors, skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the U.S. So, when it comes to your skin, play it safe.

"If you are unsure about your skin, go see your dermatologist," Dr. Choi says. "They can let you know how often to come in for screenings."

Featured Experts

Jennifer N. Choi, MD
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