The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change to your skin.
And the most common change is something growing on your skin. This growth can appear on the skin in many ways. The following explains the signs (what you see) and symptoms (what you feel) of the most common types of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
This is the most common type of skin cancer. It most often appears on skin that gets lot of sun, such as the face, scalp, neck, hands, and arms. You will find BCCs on other parts of the body, too. It can appear on parts of the body that did not get lots of sun, such as the genitals.
BCC often grows slowly. It may look like a:
- Reddish patch of dry skin that won’t heal
- Flesh-colored (or pink, red, or brown) pearl-shaped lump
- Pimple that just won’t clear
- Sore that bleeds, heals, and then returns
- Scar that feels waxy — may be skin-colored, white, or yellow
- Group of slow-growing, shiny pink or red growths — look like sores, often scaly and bleed easily
- Flat or sunken growth — feels hard, may be white or yellow
Basal cell carcinoma. This skin cancer appears in many shapes and sizes.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
This is a very common type of skin cancer. It often appears on skin that got lots of sun, such as an ear, face, bald scalp, neck, or arm. But it can appear elsewhere — even inside the mouth, on the lip, or on the genitals.
Too much sun is often the cause, but it is not the only cause. SCC can appear on skin that was badly burned, had lots of radiation (such as x-rays), or was exposed to strong chemicals.
SCC often has a reddish color. Without treatment, it can grow deeply. If this happens, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. This can be deadly. SCC often looks like a:
- Hard (scaly or crusty) reddish bump, patch, or pearl-shaped growth
- Open sore that itches and bleeds; it can heal and return
- Scaly patch on the lip; skin on the lip can get thick
Squamous cell carcinoma. These patients all have forms of squamous cell carcinoma.
Know where you have moles on your skin! Melanoma often appears in an existing mole or looks like a new mole. By knowing where you have moles on your skin, you can find melanoma when it first appears. When treated early, melanoma is often curable.
Here’s what to looks for:
- A mole on the skin that is growing, changing shape, or changing color
- A mole that looks scaly, oozes, or bleeds
- New dark spot on the skin that looks like a mole, but grows quickly
- Pain, itch, or bleeding in a new spot on the skin
- Streak (usually brown or black) underneath a fingernail or toenail
- Bruise on the foot that does not heal
Melanoma. Like other types of skin cancer, melanoma appears in many ways.
Learn more about skin cancer:
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.