Although skin cancer can resemble other skin issues, these are signs you should look out for.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but you may not always notice if you have it or may mistake it for other skin issues. That's why it's important to look over your skin regularly and to be on the lookout for anything that looks suspicious or is changing in shape, size or color. Seeing a dermatologist yearly is the best way to find skin cancers early since a trained medical professional will be able to spot bumps, moles, spots and lesions that may be cancerous.

Types of Skin Cancer

The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. It occurs in basal cells which are found in the outer layer of the skin. This cancer affects several million people each year in the U.S. but is very treatable and rarely fatal. Another common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs in the squamous cells in the outer layer of skin. Melanoma, which can grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the body if untreated, is a lot more dangerous but thankfully not as common as other forms of skin cancer.

Signs of Skin Cancer

Here are some possible signs of skin cancer, although many of these signs may also be due to other skin issues. Different types of skin cancer may look different, but if you notice any of these signs, see things that are changing rapidly on your skin or feel that something on your skin doesn't quite look right, see a doctor. It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to skin cancer because treating skin cancer early results in the best outcomes.

  • New spots or growths or ones that change in size, shape or color
  • Spots that are pink or skin-colored that are pearly, waxy or a little shiny
  • Spots that are brown, blue or gray, often with irregular edges
  • Spots that bleed easily or don't heal quickly
  • Spots that are itchy or painful
  • Red, rough or scaly spots
  • Growths with raised borders, that bleed or are wart-like
  • Scaly or crusty lesions or scar-like growths without well-defined borders
  • Changes in appearance of a mole

The most common locations for basal cell carcinomas to occur are in places that typically see the most sun, such as the face, neck, ears, head, arms, hands or legs. However, melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, even if they are not usually exposed to the sun. Skin cancers may resemble moles, warts, freckles, scars, growths or minor skin injuries, which is why they are often hard to spot.

Many skin cancers are discovered during routine skin checks by a dermatologist. They often cause no symptoms and may not be something that looks out of the ordinary to the average person. They may even be in places you can't easily see. That's why seeing a dermatologist regularly, especially if you spend time in the sun or have in the past, is your best defense against skin cancer.

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Date Last Reviewed: May 14, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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