A skin lesion biopsy is a simple medical procedure in which a sample of your skin is removed and tested in a laboratory.

The sample taken during a biopsy is often very small, sometimes the size of a grain of rice. The sample size is just large enough for laboratory technicians to test for various issues that could be the cause of a skin lesion. However, the biopsy sample may be larger if the entire lesion is removed.

There are several ways your doctor can collect a skin sample. The procedure your doctor chooses will depend on your individual circumstances.

A doctor who specializes in the skin (dermatologist) is typically the doctor who performs a skin biopsy. It’s an outpatient procedure, which means you won’t have to be admitted to a hospital.

There are several types of skin biopsy, including:

  • Shave biopsy: The doctor shaves a thin layer from the top or around a lesion.
  • Punch biopsy: The doctor uses an instrument called a punch to remove a circular section through all layers of the lesion.
  • Excisional biopsy: The doctor uses a scalpel to take off the entire lesion. This method is used for smaller lesions.
  • Incisional biopsy: The doctor uses a scalpel to remove a small sample of a large lesion.