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Skin Cancer Screenings in San Francisco, CA

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Although we offer many cosmetic dermatology treatments, Dr. Welsh and Dr. Hui Austin are also skilled and experienced medical dermatologists and can provide patients with comprehensive skin cancer screenings. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The high prevalence of skin cancer makes regular skin cancer screenings a must, especially if a patient has a personal or family history of melanoma or other skin cancer. Early detection is key - giving the patient more treatment options and better outcomes.

There are four types of skin cancer that our San Francisco doctors are looking for during a skin cancer screening:

  • The first is Actinic Keratoses (AK). AKs tend to form after the age of forty and on areas of the skin that have been exposed to sun - such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms. AKs appear as dry, scaly patches and are commonly called “pre cancers” because they have the potential to develop into Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. BCC can form anywhere on the body and may appear as a pink area or a flesh-colored or pearl-like bump. BCC needs to be treated because it has potential to grow into nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. Forming on skin that gets the most sun exposure, SCC appears as scaly patches, red firm bumps, and/or sores that heal and reopen. These too must be removed to prevent damage and disfigurement.
  • The deadliest form of skin cancer is Melanoma. Melanoma develops suddenly as a dark spot on the skin. Our doctors look for the ABCDs to detect Melanoma A= asymmetry = border, C = color, D = diameter. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Melanoma accounts for only one percent of skin cancer cases, but the majority of skin cancer deaths. For this reason, Melanoma must be treated immediately following diagnosis.


If one of our board certified doctors does find a suspicious mole or spot on the skin, they will make a preliminary diagnosis. If the doctor believes the spot to be an AK, then cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen is typically sprayed on the lesion. In the week following the treatment, the spot may swell or blister, but ultimately the AK skin cells will shed. Sometimes a small white mark or scar remains in the area that was treated. If the doctor suspects BCC, SCC, or Melanoma, or another skin condition then the area will be biopsied. First the doctor will numb the area with an injection of lidocaine, then a small sample will be shaved off using a scalpel and sent to a pathologist for diagnosis. The office will receive pathology results within a week and will call you to share the diagnosis. 

If the lesion does end up being a form of skin cancer, our office will refer the patient to a Mohs or skin cancer surgeon. We will make a copy of the patient’s insurance card and send this with the referral paperwork. The referral site will call the patient to schedule their surgery. Once the surgery is complete, our office will receive a report and follow up with the patient. 


Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology does not accept any insurance plans. We are not contracted with any insurance providers and require out-of-pocket payment for all skin cancer screenings and biopsies. We also do not take MediCal or Medicare, even if they are a secondary insurance provider. The lab that we send our biopsies to, however, does take insurance. We will send the patient’s insurance information to the lab with the biopsy. Please note that the lab charges a separate fee from our office for pathology services. The lab will contact you to collect payment for this service. 

Following any excision of the skin, including biopsy, there is a risk of scarring. Our doctor’s do their best to minimize the appearance of scarring and take the smallest skin sample possible during biopsy. However, sometimes scarring still occurs. Luckily, we have lasers that can minimize the appearance of scars post excision. 


Prevention and early detection is key when treating skin cancer. If you are due for a regular skin cancer screening, please call our office today. If you are already seeing one of our providers for cosmetic dermatology treatments, consider adding a skin cancer screening onto your next visit.

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