MSK’s skin cancer experts recommend that everyone stay vigilant about the health of their skin. However, melanoma is a rare condition, and many people do not need regular screening for it.
Our doctors recommend routine skin surveillance for people who have been treated for melanoma in the past or who are at a high risk for melanoma in the future.
We recommend that you make regular appointments with your dermatologist to check for melanoma if you have:
- a personal or family medical history of melanoma
- typical or dysplastic moles
- lots of moles
We also advise that everyone who’s had melanoma or who has other melanoma risk factors perform thorough monthly self-checks of the skin.
If you are at a high risk for melanoma, regular appointments with a dermatologist can help detect melanoma at its earliest, most treatable stages. Because melanoma is a serious condition, early detection is very important.
Melanoma Screening and Surveillance at MSK
People at a high risk for melanoma can get checked for the disease by one of MSK’s highly trained dermatologists.
One major advantage of melanoma screening at MSK is that 3-D total-body photography is available. MSK was the first institution in the world to offer this highly sophisticated technology for cancer screening.
The 3-D total-body photography system uses more than 90 cameras to take photos of the entire body. The resulting images are used to create a digital 3-D model that a doctor can look at on a computer screen.
The model shows every mole or spot on the body, and doctors can zoom in to get a closer look. The scan takes much less time than traditional photography — just eight minutes for a full session, versus more than an hour for the 2-D version — and patients can take their images home to use as a reference.
These 3-D tests may help doctors spot melanoma or other skin cancers at early stages, when they are easier to remove and there is an excellent prognosis. Using detection tools like these can also make invasive skin biopsies unnecessary. Such approaches are particularly beneficial to people who have many moles or atypical moles.