What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

The term “skin cancer” refers to three different conditions: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. BCC and SCC are referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers and are the most common forms of skin cancer. They are rarely life-threatening, but can be locally destructive to tissue. Melanoma is generally the most serious form of cancer because it can metastasize (or spread) throughout our body quickly.

Melanoma- The ABCDE’s

Asymmetry. If you draw a line through a mole, both halves should match. If a mole is asymmetrical, it could be an indication of melanoma.
Border. The borders of melanoma may become uneven, scalloped or notched.
Color. Melanoma will often be much darker than other moles or have a variety of colors both darker and light mixed together. Rarely melanomas can be pink or red.
Diameter. Usually melanomas are larger than a pencil eraser, or ¼ of an inch. They may be smaller if detected early.
Evolving. Any change in a mole – in size, shape, color or elevation – should prompt an evaluation by a dermatologist.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and does not heal after two weeks.
  • Red/pink patch of skin that is scaly or flaky, may itch or hurt, and that persists for more than a few weeks.
  • A pink or pearly translucent bump or nodule that may develop tiny blood vessels on its surface.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • A persistent, scaly, red patch that sometimes crusts or bleeds.
  • A wart-like growth that enlarges within weeks with a central indentation.
  • A raised, rough patch of skin that bleeds from minor scratching or rubbing.

Common Spots

Areas such as the nose, scalp and face are more likely to develop skin cancer, as they are often exposed to the sun. These areas could vary depending on lifestyle and occupation, but about 60% to 80% of pre-cancers of the skin and skin cancer usually form in areas that get the most exposure.

How To Protect Yourself

Keeping track of spots, bumps and freckles will help you take note if something looks unusual or begins to change. Yearly skin cancer screenings by a dermatologist is also important for early detection. It is also important to use sunscreen every day of the year in order to shield your skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays.

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