What Are the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer?

Skin Cancer Warning Signs: When to Worry

Warning Signs of Skin Cancer to Pay Attention

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 132,000 cases of melanoma and 2 to 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed worldwide annually. Signs of skin cancer can be subtle and difficult to identify, which can result in a delayed diagnosis. Being aware of the typical warning signs is the best way to prevent the most serious or fatal outcomes of a skin cancer by ensuring its earliest possible detection and diagnosis.

Skin Cancer Warning Signs

Skin cancer signs to watch for:

1. Changes in Appearance

Changes in the appearance of a mole or lesion is the simplest way to identify that something may not be right. While melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, it is also the deadliest. Melanoma often appear as regular moles, but usually can be differentiated by some distinct characteristics. Use the ABCDE method to remember and detect these differences:

  • ASYMMETRY. The shape of the mole or lesion in question does not have matching halves.
  • BORDER. The edges of the mole or lesion are not clear. The color seems ragged or blurred, or may have spread into surrounding skin.
  • COLOR. The color is uneven. Different colors such as black, brown, tan, white, grey, pink, red or blue may be seen.
  • DIAMETER. If the suspicious mole or lesion changes in size there may be a problem. Increasing is more regular, but shrinking may also occur. Melanomas are typically a minimum of ¼ inch, or the size of a pencil eraser.
  • EVOLVING. New moles or strange patches of skin, or clear changes of a mole should be paid serious attention.

2. Post-Mole-Removal changes to your skin

Although you may have had a mole removed that does not ensure that you are no longer at risk of cancer in that area. Cancer cells can spread deep into the skin, far deeper than the mole that sits on the surface. Pay attention to the removal scar and have any unusual spots or colors that appear on or around the scar checked.

3. Fingernail and Toenail changes

Skin cancer can develop in places you may not expect, such as under your fingernails or toenails. These occurrences, which are usually melanoma, can be noticed as dark spots or streaks below the nail. Keep an eye on your nails. If you wear nail polish, check your nails between applications.

4. Persistent Pimples or Sores

Sometimes skin cancer presents as a pink or red bump that looks like a pimple. However, this bump will not disappear over time. Skin cancers can also appear as or cause sores and ulcers that will not heal.

5. Impaired Vision

Melanoma can develop within your eyes. Ocular Melanoma (OM) can be difficult to detect until its later stages when symptoms usually emerge. Routine eye exams is the most reliable way of detecting OM early. OM will eventually cause symptoms such as blurry vision, increased “floaters” (the squiggly cells that you can see moving in front of your vision), or dark or discolored spots close to the iris. The likelihood of OM increases with age.

6. Scaly Patches

Dry, rough or scaly patches of skin can be a symptom of some types of skin cancer. If after applying moisturizing products the patch of skin in question remains scaly or rough to the touch it could be cancerous. It may be a lesion known as Actinic Keratosis (AK), which is a precursor to Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). AKs usually appear on body parts that have more exposure to sunlight, including the scalp, and become more common with age.

7. Persistent Itching

If you are experiencing an itching sensation that will not desist it may be caused by a skin cancer. Often mistaken for bug bites, a mole or lesion that is newly itching or itching persistently or intensely, may have turned cancerous. Do not ignore this sensation, especially if it is accompanied by a change in appearance to the region of skin in question, and seek professional assessment as soon as you are able.

Skin Cancer Warning Signs: When to Worry About That Mole

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, but it’s also one of the easiest to treat. Early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment, so it’s important to know the warning signs. Routinely checking your skin enables you to identify problems and seek prompt treatment.


Getting to know your skin helps you to spot problems early on.

Knowing what is healthy for your skin makes it easier to notice any changes. Check your skin once a month, including the areas that are usually covered by clothing.

Cancerous moles and lesions can occur anywhere on the body, not just on the skin that is exposed to sunlight. Skin cancer in men occurs most commonly on the back, while in women it often appears on the legs.

New Moles and Growths

A new mole, lesion or growth on the skin can be the first sign of skin cancer. However, the majority of new moles will be completely harmless. Make a note of any new moles and take a photograph, using a ruler or other object to show the size and scale of the growth. Check the growth again a couple of weeks later to see if there are any suspicious changes.

Skin Changes

Changes to existing moles should always be checked by a doctor, even if you’ve had the mole for a long time. A mole that gets bigger, changes shape or changes color could be a sign of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

If you have swollen lymph nodes close to the site of a suspicious mole, this is a red flag and needs to be investigated by a doctor or specialist as soon as possible.

Skin Cancer Warning Signs

  • People with lots of moles and those with a family history of skin cancer are more likely to develop melanoma, but anyone can develop skin cancer. An unusual mole is usually the first sign.
  • Normal moles are symmetrical and have smooth edges. Melanomas have unusual shapes, often asymmetrical and uneven around the edges. Normal moles are also usually one color, while melanomas can have two or more different colors or shades and sometimes unusual colors, including white, red or blue
  • Moles that are smaller than the end of a pencil (5mm) are usually harmless. Larger moles should be reported to your doctor so that they can be monitored.
  • Other warning signs include itching, bleeding, crusting, and pain around the site of a mole or growth. In addition, a dark spot under a nail that gradually spreads should be investigated, as this could be a mole or growth.
  • In rare cases, melanoma can also affect the eye, and may appear as a dark spot on the iris.

Skin cancer is one of the easiest types of cancer to cure when caught early, so it’s important to check your skin for warning signs regularly. Report any changes and suspicious growths to your doctor as soon as possible to ensure you get the best treatment.

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