How Do I Know if I Have Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer: What to Look For

An Introduction to Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the result of abnormal or out-of-control cell development on your skin. It can occur anywhere on your body and is not limited to any age group. However, it is one of the easiest forms of cancer to spot.

The first and most important way to ensure early skin cancer detection is to examine your body regularly and thoroughly. Taking note of any new bumps or moles that might appear will allow you to spot irregularities and report them to your dermatologist or medical professional.

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

The warning signs of skin cancer can vary so wildly that healthcare professionals have devised a simplified system of determining skin cancer apart from typical skin birthmarks, moles, and age or sunspots. Known as the “ABCDE rule”, this method gives you the ability to spot visual differences in your skin quickly.


When analyzing moles, birthmarks, or marks, you’ll want to take special note of any asymmetrical features where one side does not quite match the other.


Some skin cancers can be found in spots that have irregular, blurred outlines around the center.


Discoloration of moles and skin spots can be a sign of possible cancerous activity. This uneven color can also manifest as patches that appear black, brown, blue, white, or even red.


If the particular spot is larger than ¼” across or bigger in diameter than a pencil eraser, it might be a sign of possible skin cancer. However, many forms of melanoma can appear as smaller marks.


If your mole changes in color, size, or shape, it might be cancerous and will require a doctor’s diagnosis.

If you suspect that a mark on your skin doesn’t pass the above checklist, you will want to immediately talk with a dermatologist or medical professional to schedule a consultation.

Tricky to Spot

Sometimes, forms of melanoma can go unnoticed. Many people don’t observe any changes in their bodies and feel perfectly fine. This is one of the most important reasons to remain vigilant and regularly check for changes to your skin.

Different Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers come in many different forms. Some are benign, and some require immediate treatment. A doctor or specialist will be needed to determine precisely what type of skin cancer is present. However, a few special types of skin cancer are:

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma is a very common form of skin cancer, affecting nearly 3 million people a year. This type of carcinoma typically appears in areas of the body that see an abundance of UV exposure from the sun, such as the face, neck, and arms. It’s generally easily treatable by medical professionals, and treatments include prescription creams and surgical removal. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Pale yellow areas that resemble scars
  • Translucent, pearly bumps that vary in color from red to blue
  • Open sores that don’t easily heal or returns without apparent cause
  • Growths that resemble wheels, with raised edges and a lowered center

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This form of skin cancer occurs as a result of the uncontrolled growth of squamous cells. These cells make up part of the epidermis or outermost layer of skin. It’s regarded as the second most prevalent form of skin cancer, affecting over 700,000 people in the US each year.

This form of skin cancer is typically non-life threatening but can develop into other forms of cancer if left untreated. This form of cancer shows up as:

  • Red, scaly patches
  • Raised lumps or growths
  • Open sores that won’t heal
  • Warts or wart-like growths

It is important to note that not all forms of skin cancer look the same. Similarly, many variations of cancer can ignore their typical warning signs and symptoms.


Melanoma is a less common but extremely dangerous form of cancer that affects melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin in your skin. It usually manifests in moles, with the most significant difference between melanoma and carcinomas being the survival rate. Melanomas often show up as:

  • Single or multiple growths that exhibit shades of purple, blue or dark red
  • Asymmetrical in shape
  • Quickly growing or changing shape

Sometimes melanomas and carcinomas can be identified by sight alone. However, early detection is crucial for survival, and If you suspect that you might have melanoma, you will want to consult with a medical specialist immediately.

Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer disease. It affects millions of people yearly and comes in many different forms. Additionally, many risk factors are involved with developing cancer, including genetics, environmental aspects, and more. You need to consult a dermatologist for skin cancer treatment. Unfortunately, cancer is not preventable in some cases, but there are numerous ways to limit your chances of developing cancerous growth. These include:

Limiting sun exposure

This is a big one! Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight often plays an enormous role in skin cancer development. UV exposure can affect any race in any locality, even in areas that tend to see more overcast weather. Taking measures to limit exposure to the sun can help limit carcinoma and melanoma from forming. Other than limiting exposure, the next best defense is by using SPC-specific sunscreen.

Refrain from indoor tanning

Much like every day UV exposure, indoor tanning beds cause a significant increase in the risk of developing all types of skin cancer.

Regularly examine your skin

Taking the time to check your skin is one of the best ways to detect skin cancers early. Most doctors recommend checking yourself for new or evolving growths at least once a month.


Skin cancer is caused by the rampant, uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. There are many different forms of skin cancer that affect millions each year. Some are benign and can be easily treated with medication or surgery, while others are dangerous. They can also vary wildly in type, progression, and severity, so it’s essential to be observant of any changes to your skin. If you notice any new asymmetrical spots that change in shape, color, or appearance, you’ll want to immediately contact a doctor or medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.


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