Skin biopsy

A skin biopsy 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.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

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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