According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer found in the United States. Skin cancer is always hard to spot because it can start off as an innocent birthmark or mole. However, depending on the type of skin cancer it is, it can quickly spread to other body parts and organs. That’s why it is so important to catch any signs of it early on when there are still high chances of successful treatment.
Now, as much as we wish it were possible, it’s not quite feasible to rush over to your dermatologist every time you notice a new spot, mole, or even freckle on your body. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of skin cancer symptoms so that you always know how to spot skin cancer.
Types of Skin Cancer
Before we actually get into discussing how to spot skin cancer, it’s important to know the different types of it. This is because different types of skin cancer result in different skin cancer symptoms.
More importantly, certain types of skin cancer are more dangerous than the rest, and that’s why if you notice any such signs, you will need to rush to your dermatologist right away. There are three main types of skin cancer that account for more than 99% of the cases. These are:
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Affecting more than four million people each year, BCC is a common type of skin cancer. It is named after the cells where it begins, and in this case, it’s the basal cells. This type of cancer usually develops on those parts of your body that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, neck, back, etc. However, this doesn’t mean that BCC can’t develop in other areas that never see sunlight.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Less common but more serious than BCC, SCC also develops in the keratinocyte cells. Additionally, similar to BCC, this type of skin cancer also often develops on sun-exposed areas but is not entirely limited there.
This is the most serious type of skin cancer, which you need to be aware of. What makes this so dangerous is that this cancer grows in the same cells that produce moles on your body. That’s why people often confuse signs of melanoma with being a harmless mole and nothing more.
Skin Cancer Symptoms
Skin cancer symptoms are often confused with other innocuous marks on your body, and that is what makes it so dangerous. However, if you happen to have a history of skin cancer or it runs in your family, you need to be extra conscious and aware of its signs.
Here are some skin cancer symptoms you should look out for according to the types of skin cancer:
If you have BCC, you may notice a pearly or waxy bump on the sun-exposed area of your body. It could be raised or flat and can appear to be flesh-like or a brown scar-like lesion.
Sometimes, it can also manifest in the form of bleeding, scabbing, or open sore that won’t heal or would heal but keep coming back again and again. Another common symptom of BCC is a raised reddish patch that is always itchy. BCC can also appear as a pinkish growth with a lower center area and raised edges with blood vessels spreading out.
When checking for SCC, the skin cancer symptoms might appear as scaly or rough red patches, which might also bleed or crust. You might notice raised lumps or abnormal growth with raised edges and low centers. In addition to that, similar to BCC, you might notice open sores that may be crusted or oozing and don’t heal, or heal but come back.
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, whether it is exposed to the sun or not. Although, sun exposure can affect the chances of melanoma. In women, melanoma usually develops on the lower part of the legs, and in men, it occurs on the face or trunk. This type of cancer can develop on normal skin or in moles already present on the body.
When it comes to spotting skin cancer symptoms for melanoma, you have to remember the ABCDE rule:
- Asymmetry: The birthmark or mole won’t be symmetrical, with one end not matching the other.
- Border: The border of the birthmark or mole will be notched, irregular, blurred, or ragged.
- Color: The color won’t be the same throughout. You will notice various shades of black or brown.
- Diameter: The diameter of the spot or mole would be larger than ¼ of an inch, although melanomas can be smaller than this, too.
- Evolving: The mole or spot would keep evolving over time, changing in shape, color, size, etc.
Skin cancer can appear differently on everyone’s skin. Therefore, even if you don’t spot any skin cancer symptoms mentioned above, you shouldn’t consider yourself entirely safe. There are other symptoms as well, which you need to keep in mind.
- New spots
- A unique spot that is entirely different than all the rest
- A sore that isn’t healing
- Redness beyond the border of a mole
- Changing surface of a mole
Now that you know about the different types of skin cancers, their symptoms, and how to spot skin cancer, make sure you keep a close eye on any new developments on your body at all times.
Do a thorough checkup of your body every time you get out of the shower, making sure to check your back, under your legs, and all areas that are exposed to the sun. Ask your partner to check any hard-to-see places. Most importantly, if you notice any dangerous or suspicious spots, make sure you get them checked right away.