Skin Biopsy

What is a Skin Biopsy?

A skin biopsy procedure involves the removal of a skin lesion for analysis and diagnosis. A doctor can excise the skin using a number of techniques, including punch biopsy, shave biopsy and excisional biopsy. Skin cancer biopsy is one of the primary methods used to diagnose skin cancer.

How Does a Skin Biopsy Work?

A skin biopsy works by taking a small sample of tissue from a suspect area in the body so that it can be tested under lab conditions for certain diseases and disorders. Biopsies can take several forms. Some biopsies involve excising a small sample of tissue from the skin using a circular blade. A needle biopsy involves the insertion of a needle into suspicious tissue to pull a sample from within an expression, cyst or tumor. There are also a number of biopsies that use CT scan and ultrasound techniques to assess an affected area. What biopsy will be used depends on the area of the body affected as well as the disease or disorder that is suspected.

Conditions Diagnosed by a Biopsy

A biopsy is used most commonly to identify whether damaged or affected cells are cancerous. A punch biopsy, for example, might be used on skin tissue that is suspected to have developed melanoma. Biopsies are also used in the assessment of moles. It is important to remember that a biopsy is not a confirmation that a disease such as cancer is present; it is an essential step in the diagnostic process used to rule out disease.

What Happens After a Skin Biopsy?

Patients may be expected to keep a bandage over the biopsy site for a day. The would should be cleaned and tended until the wound has healed. It is recommended that patients avoid any movement or exercise that can stretch or aggravate the site of the skin biopsy.

When Are Skin Biopsy Results Ready?

How long does it take to get skin biopsy results? Skin biopsy results generally take 1 to 2 weeks, but this skin biopsy results time frame can vary from patient to patient and depends on what condition the biopsy is meant to diagnose. Any delays in skin biopsy results can occur due to a variety of reasons, including both technical and medical reasons.

Are Skin Biopsies Safe?

A skin biopsy is a simple, fast and generally safe procedure, but there can be some risks involved, including:

  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Allergic reaction to the topical antibiotic

Good skin biopsy aftercare is one of the most important steps patients can take to ameliorate risks associated with the procedure, including wound infection after biopsy. If itching after skin biopsy occurs, patients should avoid scratching and aggravating the wound. Does a skin biopsy hurt afterwards? Patients may experience skin biopsy pain afterwards that can be managed with OTC analgesics in most cases. Patients may also see bruising after a skin biopsy. Most patients are left with a skin biopsy scar, the size and intensity of which depends on the size of the lesion and the type of procedure used.

Related Conditions

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis, sometimes referred to as AK, is a precancerous growth on the skin. Learn More

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most diagnosed form of skin cancer, with millions of cases each year in the U.S. It appears on the skin in a variety of sizes and shapes, such as dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels, shiny patches, brown/black growths, sores, or white/yellow scar-like growths.  Learn More

Bullous Disease

Bullous disease is a rare dermatological condition in which large, fluid-filled blisters appear in regions of the skin that are often flexed, such as the armpits. Learn More

Common Skin Growths

There are a number of common, non-cancerous skin growths that are prevalent in our population. Learn More

Melanoma Treatment

Melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer. Melanin is created by cells called melanocytes and gives your skin its particular color. Learn More

Moles Treatment

Moles are a common skin condition in which a cluster of pigmented cells create a distinct skin growth. Learn More

Skin Cancer Treatment

There are many types of skin cancer but the most common are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Learn More

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer. Learn More


Warts are a common condition that create small, granular skin growths on the surface of the skin. Learn More

Other Treatments

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