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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course The Histology of Dermatological Specimens - Part 1. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) on nose

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) on nose

Skin Specimen Collection: Biopsies and Excisions

Not all skin conditions require a skin sample for evaluation. Biopsies are performed to diagnose bacterial or fungal infections, inflammatory diseases, skin cancers, or benign skin growths.
The majority of basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) occur on the face, ears, neck, trunk, and extremities. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) commonly occur on the lips, ears, and hands.
Most biopsies and excisions are sent to the histology laboratory for processing, including:
  • Skin shave biopsies: A thin, circular slice of skin is shaved off (removed) using a razor blade, scalpel, or a razor-like tool for small areas. Only the upper portions of skin are sampled. Curettage, or skin scrapings, are also performed with a razor blade. This method is quick, cost-effective, and the least complicated.
  • Skin punch biopsies: A cylindrical or conical portion of skin is removed with a sharp, circular boring tool that penetrates and removes deeper portions of skin. Although the sample is narrow, it does represent a deeper portion of skin including the subcutaneous tissue.
  • Skin excisions: Most commonly an elliptical or oval skin portion is cut away with a scalpel. The excision contains the lesion and deeper portions of skin, including the subcutaneous tissue. Excisions are used for both diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers, cysts, and lipomas. Excising tissue affected with skin cancer is the most widely accepted cure for skin cancer.