Skin biopsy

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A skin biop removes cells or skin samples from the surface of your body. The sample taken from a skin biopsy is examined to provide information about your medical condition. A doctor uses a skin biopsy to diagnose or rule out certain skin conditions and diseases.

Three main types of skin biopsies are:

  • Shave biopsy. A doctor uses a tool similar to a razor to remove a small section of the top layers of skin (epidermis and a portion of the dermis).
  • Punch biopsy. A doctor uses a circular tool to remove a small section of skin including deeper layers (epidermis, dermis and superficial fat).
  • Excisional biopsy. A doctor uses a small knife (scalpel) to remove an entire lump or an area of abnormal skin, including a portion of normal skin down to or through the fatty layer of skin.
  • A skin biopsy is used to diagnose or rule out skin conditions and diseases. It may also be used to remove skin lesions.

    A skin biopsy may be necessary to diagnose or to help treat skin conditions and diseases, including:

    • Actinic keratosis
    • Bullous pemphigoid and other blistering skin disorders
    • Dermatitis, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions
    • Skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma
    • Skin infection
    • Skin tags
    • Suspicious moles or other growths
    • Warts

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