Skin Cancer Screening

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States, is the result of the abnormal growth of skin cells. Cancer can affect skin anywhere on the body, but most frequently appears on skin that is exposed to the sun. There are more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the United States each year.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

Every day, skin cells die and new ones form to replace them in a process controlled by DNA. Skin cancer can form when this process does not work properly because of damage to DNA. New cells may form when they are not needed, or older cells may not die, both of which can cause a growth of tissue known as a tumor. DNA damage is often a result of ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps. In some cases, skin cancer affects areas of the skin that have not been exposed to the sun. Certain factors, such as fair skin, moles, a weakened immune system, heredity and age, also increase the risk of skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three major types of skin cancer, and they affect different layers of the skin. They are named for the different types of skin cells that become cancerous.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell skin cancer occurs in the basal cell layer of the skin and is the most common type of skin cancer in people with fair skin. It commonly occurs on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun, such as the face. It rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the squamous cells, and is the most common type of skin cancer in people with dark skin, who typically get it in places, such as the legs or feet, that have not been exposed to the sun. In people with fair skin, it usually occurs in sun-exposed areas such as on the face, head, ears and neck. Squamous cell skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body.


Melanoma is the most aggressive type of cancer, and the most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma occurs in the melanocyte (pigment) cells of the skin, and can form on any part of the body, regardless of past sun exposure.

The ABCDE’s of Skin Cancer

For early detection of Melanoma, follow the ABCDEs of Skin Cancer



Uneven shape or pattern



Outer edges uneven



Dark black or multiple colors



Greater than 6mm



Changing size/shape/color

Request a Consultation

We would love to meet with you to discuss your specific goals and concerns. Contact our practice for more information or to schedule your appointment today.

Patient Reviews

"Very happy with Dr Harris. Takes time needed for thorough exams, is proactive in staying ahead of potential issues. Good manner and patient interaction" - Steve

"Friendly and efficient office staff. Took us for our appointments on time. Office was clean, comfortable and professional. All of the staff were open to answering any questions. Dr. H Ross Harris was focused and efficient and willing to see patients if they have any concerning skin areas between visits. Doctor Ross Harris was able to spot a very tiny suspicious area on our brother in law’s forehead and correctly diagnosed it as melanoma. That was a lifesaver. We are very pleased with our new Dermatologist!” - Lindsay

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is often identified as a new or changed growth on the skin of the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands or legs. Although these are common areas for skin-cancer growths to form, they can occur anywhere, and manifest themselves as the following:

  • Pearly or waxy bump
  • Flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
  • Firm, red nodule
  • Crusted, flat lesion
  • Large brown spot with darker speckles
  • Shiny, firm bumps

A mole that changes shape or color can also indicate skin cancer.

Diagnosis of Skin Cancer

To diagnose skin cancer, a doctor reviews all symptoms, and checks the skin for any unusual growths or abnormal patches of skin. If skin cancer is suspected, a biopsy is performed on the growth or area of skin in question. Once the results of the biopsy are reviewed, the type of cancer can be determined, and a treatment plan created. Those who experience any skin changes, or have changes to existing moles or birthmarks, should see a doctor as soon as possible; early detection is key in successfully treating skin cancer.

Treatment for Skin Cancer

Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the tumor. Most options include the removal of the entire growth, and are effective forms of treatment. Removal procedures are usually simple, requiring only a local anesthetic in an outpatient setting. Some of the treatment options for skin cancer include the following:

Depending on the stage and severity of the skin cancer, in addition to removal of the growth, chemotherapy and radiation may be recommended.

Prevention of Skin Cancer

Although not every case of skin cancer can be prevented, the best way to avoid it is to protect skin from the sun. Recommendations for preventing skin cancer include the following:

  • Limit exposure to the skin, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Always wear sun screen with an SPF of at least 15
  • Wear a hat in the sun
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants
  • Avoid tanning beds and salons

Performing routine self-exams to spot skin changes, and seeing a dermatologist for a full-body screening on a regular basis, is also recommended.

How Do I Know When I Need a Skin Cancer Screening?

Understanding and recognizing the symptoms of skin cancer is crucial when it comes to seeking the proper cancer treatment if needed. While symptoms may vary between the three most common types of skin cancer, most of them can include:

  • Unusual lumps on the skin
  • Brown scaly patches in sun-exposed areas of the skin
  • Appearance of new moles or growth/change in an existing mole

People who have a history of the following conditions or living situations may be more at risk for developing skin cancer than most:

  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Prone to sunburns
  • Frequent tanning bed use
  • Occupations that require prolonged time outdoors or in the sun

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and have not had a cancer screening within a year, we recommend you visit Harris Dermatology as soon as possible.

How Often Should I Get a Skin Cancer Screening?

When it comes to skin cancer, or any cancer, an important part of getting patients the treatment they need is to establish early detection. To do this, we recommend patients complete a skin cancer screening by a professional dermatologist at least once a year.

How Can I Prepare for My Skin Cancer Screening?

Preparing for your skin cancer screening can help your procedure go by quicker. Do the following before arriving at your scheduled screening appointment:

  • Avoid wearing makeup to your screening.
  • Remove all nail polish.
  • Keep your hair loose and down. Do not tie it up in a bun or ponytail.
  • Wear comfortable, breathable clothing.
  • Note exactly where suspicious spots and moles are located on your body.

How Long Does a Skin Cancer Screening Take?

A skin cancer screening normally involves the examination of the entire body, including the scalp, ears, fingers, buttocks, neck, and feet. In total, this procedure should take between 10 to 15 minutes.

When Will I Find Out About My Results?

Results from a skin cancer screening are typically delivered back to the patient within a few days to a week. In certain cases, it may take over a week for results to be reported. Once you receive your results, our team of highly experienced expert dermatologists will be ready to walk you through the next steps regarding the results of your skin cancer screening.

Schedule a Skin Cancer Screening

To schedule an appointment for a skin cancer screening consultation, please call us at 239-936-3344 in Fort Myers or 239-596-1848 in Naples. You can also fill out an online contact form and our office will be in touch with you.

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