In general, any new or changing spots on your skin that persist for two weeks or more should be brought to your doctor’s attention. Skin cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages, though symptoms can appear at any point.
Skin cancer symptoms may include:
- A new spot on the skin or
- A changes in the size, shape or color of an existing spot. These changes can vary greatly so there is no one way to describe how a skin cancer looks.
- A spot that is itchy or painful
- A non-healing sore that bleeds or develops a crust
- A red- or skin-colored shiny bump on the top of the skin
- A red rough or scaly spot that you can feel
- A growth with a raised border and central crust or bleeding
- A wart-like growth
- A scar-like growth without a well-defined border
Skin cancer symptoms can vary depending on the type of skin cancer and its location on the skin. Below are general descriptions of the various symptoms associated with specific skin cancer types.
Basal cell carcinoma usually appears on the face, neck, arms, legs, ears and hands -- areas with high sun exposure. However, it can appear in other areas as well. Signs of basal cell carcinoma include:
- Pearly or waxy bump on the skin
- Flat, rough, or scar-like patch on the skin
- A sore that bleeds, doesn't fully heal, or that reoccurs
Visit our basal cell carcinoma page for more information.
Squamous cell carcinoma also tends to develop in areas of high sun exposure. In some cases, squamous cell carcinoma can affect areas that are not exposed to sunlight. This is especially the case for people with darker skin tones. Signs of squamous cell carcinoma include:
- A firm, red nodule
- A scaly or crusty lesion with irregular borders
- Painful or itchy skin lesion
Visit our squamous cell carcinoma page for more information.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body and may develop out of existing moles. In people with darker skin tones, melanoma tends to occur on the palms or soles of the feet. Signs of melanoma include:
- Change in the appearance of a mole
- Development of a large brown spot, often with irregular edges
- Dark lesions on the mucous membranes (nose, mouth, vagina, or anus) or the fingers and toes
Visit our melanoma page for more information.
Some people have an elevated risk of developing skin cancer. Review the skin cancer screening guidelines to see if you need to be tested.
Behavioral and lifestyle changes can help prevent skin cancer. Visit our prevention and screening section to learn how to manage your risk.
In rare cases, skin cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.
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