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Why Would I Need to Have a Skin Biopsy?

Why Would I Need to Have a Skin Biopsy?

A skin biopsy is a common diagnostic test. While we can diagnose many types of skin conditions with a visual exam, more complex conditions (like skin cancer) could necessitate a skin biopsy to reach a diagnosis.

If you have an unusual patch of skin — like a suspicious mole, a recurring infection, or a rash — don’t wait to see if it goes away on its own. Elvira Klause, MD, FACS, and our team offer dermatology care to diagnose and address your skin concerns.

Read on to learn about some of the most common reasons why you might need to have a skin biopsy and what to expect if you get one.

Common reasons for a skin biopsy

Your dermatology appointment begins with a thorough review of your medical history and your symptoms. Then Dr. Klause and our team examine your skin.

We may be able to diagnose some conditions with an exam alone, so you may not need a biopsy. Acne, eczema, rosacea, skin tags, and more are generally simple to identify visually.

But Dr. Klause may recommend a skin biopsy if she can’t confirm a diagnosis with an exam alone. She might recommend a skin biopsy if she suspects certain skin conditions, including:

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It typically develops due to unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, and it can affect anyone at any age.

A skin biopsy is the only way to confirm skin cancer. If Dr. Klause suspects skin cancer, a biopsy can determine which type of skin cancer you have, as well as how advanced it is. The earlier we identify skin cancer, the more effective your treatment will be.

Suspicious moles

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, and cancerous cells often start developing in areas of skin that look like moles. While most moles are harmless, suspicious moles could indicate cancer. Dr. Klause may identify a suspicious mole if it:

A skin biopsy can identify areas of precancerous cell growth, as well as diagnose melanoma before it begins spreading to other areas.

Noncancerous growths

Not every unusual growth means skin cancer, but even noncancerous growths can pose a risk to your health. Dr. Klause may recommend a skin biopsy for warts and other skin growths to identify their causes.

Actinic keratosis (AK) is another common, noncancerous skin condition. It develops with sun exposure and appears like a rough, scaly patch of skin. We need to diagnose AK, because it can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, if left untreated.

Infections and rashes

Both infections and rashes can cause noticeable changes in the look of your skin. While many infections and rashes clear up on their own, some types could indicate underlying conditions. 

Dr. Klause may suggest a skin biopsy to diagnose recurring bacterial and fungal skin infections. A biopsy can also help her identify and diagnose chronic skin conditions, including contact dermatitis and psoriasis.

What to do if you have a skin concern

If you’ve noticed a patch of skin that’s changing, it’s not always easy to know if it warrants a trip to the dermatologist. You might be tempted to wait and see, but it’s a good idea to have a skin exam whenever you have a skin concern.

Serious skin conditions like skin cancer are most treatable when they’re identified early, so take a proactive approach to protect your health. Call our San Clemente, California, office at 949-393-2595 or request your first appointment online to get started.

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