Symptoms and Risks of Skin Cancer

woman checking skin for moles
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Skin cancer is divided into two groups: non-melanoma and melanoma. The type of skin cancer symptoms discussed here are those of non-melanoma skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Non-melanomas are much more common and less dangerous than melanoma. In fact, over 1,000,000 people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer each year.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

  • A small lump (spot or mole) that is shiny, waxy, pale in color, and smooth in texture.
  • A red lump (spot or mole) that is firm
  • A sore or spot that bleeds or become crusty. Also look for sores that don't heal.
  • Rough and scaly patches on the skin.
  • Flat scaly areas of the skin that are red or brown.
  • Any new growth that is suspicious

It is important to note that these growths are usually painless, but can be painful in some cases. See pictures of basal cell carcinoma and pictures of squamous cell carcinoma for detailed examples.

Note: These skin cancer symptoms did not include the symptoms of melanoma, a highly dangerous type of skin cancer.

It is recommended that every person perform a regular skin self-examination to look for abnormal skin changes. It is also recommended to have a yearly clinical skin exam by your doctor. If you suspect that a lump, spot, or mole may be suspicious of skin cancer, see your doctor. If you are at higher risk of developing skin cancer, you should see a dermatologist, a skin specialist who has more experience in screening/diagnosing skin cancer.

Everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer. However, certain characteristics make people more at risk for developing the disease:

  • people with freckles
  • those with fair skin tones
  • those who burn easily
  • people with light colored eyes, such as green and blue eyes
  • people with naturally red or blonde hair
  • people who spend a lot of time outdoors
  • people who have a personal or family history of skin cancer or melanoma

If you are unsure of your skin cancer risk, talk to your doctor. In the meantime, be sure to follow safe sun practices.


"Skin Cancer Symptoms". What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer. National Cancer Institute.

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