Learn to Identify Skin Cancer With These Pictures

Identifying Three Common Types of Skin Cancer

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Melanoma: Asymmetrical

How to Identify Skin Cancer Melanoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

When you notice a mole or blemish that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere, you might ignore it. Or perhaps you're a worrier who's convinced it's skin cancer. Not every new mole or blemish is cause for concern, but some are. So how can you tell when something is worth worrying about? What does skin cancer look like?

The only way to tell if a new blemish is cancerous is by visiting your dermatologist. Even if you don't think you have skin cancer, it's still smart to get a full body skin examination by your dermatologist once a year. You may have a suspicious mole in a place you can't easily see that no one else told you was there.

This photo gallery includes images of several different types of skin cancer, including melanomabasal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The different signs that distinguish skin cancer from benign blemishes are illustrated with these real-life photos.

This area is considered abnormal for quite a few reasons. Not only is this mole asymmetrical, but the color is not consistent. There are several, varying shades of colors. A normal mole or beauty mark is typically uniform in color with a well-defined border. This abnormal mole, as well as the surrounding area, lacks a consistent, even border, which is often a red flag for melanoma.

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Melanoma: Uneven Color

How to Identify Skin Cancer Melanoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

This mole clearly exhibits the cornerstones of an abnormality: it's asymmetrical, it lacks a consistent border and it contains different shades of brown. "Normal" moles are uniform in color, have a consistent border and are symmetrical.

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Melanoma: Large Diameter

How to Identify Skin Cancer Melanoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

One thing that raises red flags about the mole pictured above is its size. Size is a major indicator. The general rule of thumb is that anything larger than a pencil eraser - 1/4 of an inch of 6 millimeters - could be abnormal and should be examined by a dermatologist. It's also abnormal because it has varying shades of brown and lacks a uniform, symmetrical border.

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

How to Identify Skin Cancer Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

Squamous cell carcinoma commonly appears on the most sun-exposed parts of the body, such as the face, as pictured above, but it can appear elsewhere. In this image, the raised lesion has crusty areas that are considered to be abnormal. See a dermatologist if you have any spots, lumps or bumps that appear scaly or ulcerated, or come back after healing or do not heal at all.

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Melanoma: Uneven Coloring

How to Identify Skin Cancer Melanoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

This case of melanoma prominently exhibits the signature uneven borders, large diameter and uneven coloring. Note that the center of the mole is raised in comparison to the rest of the abnormal area.

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Melanoma: Irregular Borders

How to Identify Skin Cancer Melanoma. Photo courtesy of A.D.A.M. Health Encyclopedia

This mole is very irregular and has a jagged border. It also contains several different shades of color. The size is also considered abnormal because it exceeds the size of a pencil eraser: 1/4 of an inch or 6 millimeters.

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Basal Cell Carcinoma

How to Identify Skin Cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

Basal cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 80 percent of all cases of skin cancer. The image above is a classic example of a basal cell lesion: it's flat, scaly and has a somewhat pearlescent shine. These types of lesions can be small, but can and do often grow to become quite large.

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

How to Identify Skin Cancer Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

This image of squamous cell carcinoma shows shiny, pale, raised patches that are surrounded by scaly areas, all of which are classic symptoms of this particular type of skin cancer. In its early stages, squamous cell carcinoma is hard to spot. It often appears as scaly patches that do not go away, or as a sore or scab that does not heal, or heals and returns.

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Melanoma: Large Diameter

How to Identify Skin Cancer Melanoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

This particular mole fits all the criteria to be considered abnormal. It is large is diameter, lacks a uniform, even border, and the shade is not consistent.

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Basal Cell Carcinoma

How to Identify Skin Cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

A common misconception about skin cancer is that the lesion must be raised in order to be considered abnormal. In this image, the lesion is flat and scaly in some areas - all symptoms of basal cell carcinoma. These lesions can be flesh-toned or have varying shades of brown.

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Melanoma: Fingernail

How to Identify Skin Cancer Melanoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

Melanoma can take hold in places other than the skin. The undersides of nail beds in the fingers and toes are also places where this potentially fatal type of skin cancer can develop. When melanoma develops under the fingernails, it appears as a blue or brown discoloration. It can be a small spot or cover the entire area of the nail, like in this image.

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Basal Cell Carcinoma

How to Identify Skin Cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

Basal cell carcinoma can appear as a flesh colored lump or bump, like in this image. The small blood vessels that pass through it are also visible, which is another indicator of basal cell carcinoma.

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Basal Cell Carcinoma

How to Identify Skin Cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma. Photo © A.D.A.M.

This large, red colored lesion is another example of basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It typically grows at a very slow rate, but development can also accelerate rather quickly.

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