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How To Check If You Have Skin Cancer

What’s The Difference Between A Freckle And A Mole

To See If You Have Skin Cancer

Both moles and freckles appear as darker spots on the skin, but while moles are usually raised, freckles are flat. In both, the colour is due to melanin, which can darken with sun exposure, and moles occur when pigment-containing skin cells form a cluster. While skin cancer self-checks are important, do keep in mind that not all spots are cancerous â and most moles are harmless.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Signs And Symptoms

Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma usually occurs because of repeated sun exposure over time. This skin cancer is a slow-developing skin cancer that can spread to other areas of the skin, although it is still considered uncommon to spread widely.

Squamous cell carcinoma normally takes the form of:

  • wart-like bumps that often have crusted surfaces
  • rough, scaly patches that may bleed
  • an open sore that bleeds or develops a crust
  • red, dome-like nodules

Bowens disease, also known as squamous cell carcinoma in situ, is an early form of squamous cell carcinoma. It usually appears as a red, itchy scaly patch that can often be confused for psoriasis or eczema. It is easily treated, but if left undiagnosed, it can pose a risk.

How To Perform A Skin Self

Examine your body in a full-length mirror

Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then look at the right and left sides with your arms raised.

Look at your underarms, forearms, and palms

Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms, underarms, and palms.

Look at your legs, between toes, and soles of your feet

Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

Use a hand mirror to examine your neck and scalp

Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look.

Use a hand mirror to check your back and buttocks

Finally, check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.

Related AAD resources

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Other Cancers On The Face

A few other rare skin cancers that might happen on the face:

  • Lymphoma of the skin is an uncommon type of white blood cell cancer.
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma is cancer caused by a herpes virus in immunosuppressed patients that causes skin lesions on the face. They look like painless purplish spots.
  • Skin adnexal tumors is a rare cancer type that starts in hair follicles or skin glands.
  • Sarcomas are tumors of the connective tissuesspecifically the fat, nerves, bone, skin, and muscles 80% of which occur in the face, head, or neck.
  • Cutaneous leiomyosarcoma is an uncommon soft-tissue sarcoma that can happen on the face.

Less Common Skin Cancers

17 Best images about Squamous cell carcinoma on Pinterest ...

Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposis sarcoma, mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands in the skin and Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms, and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body.

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Are Moles Cancerous How To Tell If Your Moles May Be Cancer

Are moles cancerous? It depends on what you mean by âmoleâ!

Most of our patients think of coloured and/or raised spots on their skin as moles âthis means that yes, some âmolesâ actually are skin cancers.

A skin cancer doctor or a dermatologist thinks of moles and skin cancers as two separate things: a mole isnât a skin cancer, and a skin cancer isnât a mole. The difference between moles and skin cancers isnât always obvious. Sometimes an early skin cancer looks like a mole, and sometimes an odd-looking mole looks like skin cancer.

But when people ask if their moles might be cancerous they arenât using this strict interpretation.

For the purposes of this page, we consider a mole to be a spot or lump on the surface of the skin, because this is the way our patients tend to think.

Treatment For Basal Cell Carcinoma

With this type of skin cancer, if your dermatologist removes the tumor for biopsy, you probably wont need any further basal cell carcinoma treatments.

If your tumor is large, or is on your face , neck or ears, your doctor will probably recommend treating basal carcinoma with Mohs surgery, which is a procedure thats designed to leave the smallest possible scar.

Either way, youll need to keep a close watch on your skin McMichael said that once youve had this type of tumor, youre at higher risk of getting another one in the next three years.

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You Can Identify The Type Of Skin Cancer And The Extent Of The Damage

Skin cancer is a common problem, and it can be difficult to know how to identify it and the extent of the damage. A skin cancer check can help you identify the type of skin cancer and the extent of the damage. Additionally, a skin cancer checks Melbourne can help you determine if you have any other health problems that may need attention.

What Skin Cancer Looks Like


Skin cancer appears on the body in many different ways. It can look like a:

  • Changing mole or mole that looks different from your others

  • Dome-shaped growth

  • Non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns

  • Brown or black streak under a nail

It can also show up in other ways.

To find skin cancer on your body, you dont have to remember a long list. Dermatologists sum it up this way. Its time to see a dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that:

  • Differs from the others

  • Itches

  • Bleeds

To make it easy for you to check your skin, the AAD created the Body Mole Map. Youll find everything you need to know on a single page. Illustrations show you how to examine your skin and what to look for. Theres even place to record what your spots look like. Youll find this page, which you can print, at Body Mole Map.

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How Often Should You Get Tested

Not every medical professional may agree on how often you should get screened for skin cancer. Some providers believe that you should get checked yearly, especially if you have a higher risk for skin cancer because of the use of tanning beds, red/blonde hair, family medical history, etc. Some providers may state that you should only get checked if you have unusual moles.

If you notice a difference in your skin, it would be best to get checked right away. That way, you will learn how to treat any problem immediately, and if you live in or near the greater Birmingham, Alabama area, feel free to reach out to the team at Associated Dermatologists to book an appointment for skin cancer screening. Our office is conveniently located in Trussville just minutes from I-459 as youll see on the map below:

What Is Skin Cancer

Cancer is the name given to diseases that cause cells in a specific part of the body to grow and multiply rapidly. Skin cancer is cancer that develops in the skin cells. There are different types of skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. This type of skin cancer can appear as a lump or scaling area of skin, which is red, pale or pearly in colour. The spot may become ulcerated and not heal. Basal cell carcinomas often grow on the head, neck or upper body. They tend to grow slowly, without spreading to other parts of the body.

Squamous cell carcinomas appear as a thickened, red, scaly spot. These spots might bleed easily or ulcerate. They appear in places that are most often exposed to the sun. Squamous cell carcinomas grow slowly over months and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer. If not treated, it can spread to other parts of the body, often including the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones or brain, and can be deadly. Melanoma might appear as a new spot, or they might grow in an existing spot, freckle or mole. They can be flat on the skin or stick out. A melanoma will often have an irregular outline and be more than one colour.

You can see more pictures of the different types of skin cancer here. If you notice a change in your skin that doesnt look like one of these pictures, you should still have your doctor take a look just in case.

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How Often Should You Get A Skin Cancer Exam

Experts disagree on this question. Some medical groups say you should only get a screening if you have suspicious moles or you have a high chance of getting melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Others recommend a yearly screening for people who are at high risk for skin cancer. A few things make you more likely to get it:

  • Blond or red hair, light eye color, and skin that freckles or sunburns easily
  • People in your family have had melanoma
  • Youve had unusual moles in the past
  • Youve had sunburns before, especially any that blistered
  • Youve used tanning beds
  • You have more than 50 moles or any that look irregular

Looking For Signs Of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer risk in Alberta on par with warmer countries

Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that’s exposed to the sun.

To spot skin cancers early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you’ll notice any changes more easily.

To look at areas you cant see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if you’re regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.

You can take a photo of anything that doesn’t look quite right. If you can it’s a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it’s changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor.

  • Northern Ireland Cancer Network, December 2012

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2018

  • Cancer and its managementJ Tobias and D HochhauserBlackwell, 2015

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What Are Some Of The Lesser

Some of the less common skin cancers include the following:

Kaposi sarcoma is a rare cancer most commonly seen in people who have weakened immune systems, those who have human immunodeficiency virus /AIDS and people who are taking immunosuppressant medications who have undergone organ or bone marrow transplant.

Signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma are:

  • Blue, black, pink, red or purple flat or bumpy blotches or patches on your arms, legs and face. Lesions might also appear in your mouth, nose and throat.

Merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer that begins at the base of the epidermis, the top layer of your skin. This cancer starts in Merkel cells, which share of the features of nerve cells and hormone-making cells and are very close to the nerve ending in your skin. Merkel cell cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body than squamous or basal cell skin cancer.

Signs and symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma are:

  • A small reddish or purplish bump or lump on sun-exposed areas of skin.
  • Lumps are fast-growing and sometimes open up as ulcers or sores.

Sebaceous gland carcinoma

Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that usually appears on your eyelid. This cancer tends to develop around your eyes because theres a large number of sebaceous glands in that area.

Signs and symptoms of sebaceous gland carcinoma are:

  • A painless, round, firm, bump or lump on or slightly inside your upper or lower eyelid.

Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans

Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Skin Cancer Screening

Exposure to the ultraviolet rays that come from the sun plays a major role in causing skin cancer. You are exposed to these rays anytime you are out in the sun, not just when you are at the beach or pool. But you can limit your sun exposure and help reduce your risk of skin cancer if you take a few simple precautions when out in the sun. These include:

  • Using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30
  • Seeking shade when possible
  • Wearing a hat and sunglasses

Sunbathing also increases your risk of skin cancer. You should avoid outdoor sunbathing and never use an indoor tanning salon. There is no safe amount of exposure to artificial tanning beds, sunlamps, or other artificial tanning devices.

If you have questions about reducing your risk of skin cancer, talk to your health care provider.

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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider

Questions to ask your dermatologist may include:

  • What type of skin cancer do I have?
  • What stage is my skin cancer?
  • What tests will I need?
  • Whats the best treatment for my skin cancer?
  • What are the side effects of that treatment?
  • What are the potential complications of this cancer and the treatment for it?
  • What outcome can I expect?
  • Do I have an increased risk of additional skin cancers?
  • How often should I be seen for follow-up checkups?

How Is The Abcde Rule For Melanoma Used

Cancer Facts : How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer

The ABCDE rule tells you what to look for when examining your skin.

The A stands for asymmetrical. One half of a cancerous spot or mole may not match the other if you were to split the mole in half. Noncancerous moles are typically symmetrical.

B is for border. The border of a cancerous spot or mole may be irregular or blurred, or it may be pink or red in color. A typical spot or mole is likely to have well-defined borders.

Next up is color. A typical mole tends to be evenly colored, usually a single shade of brown. A cancerous spot may not be the same color all over.

It can be several shades of the same color or made up of several colors, including tan, brown, or black. They can even include areas of white, red, or blue.

Amelanotic melanomas are harder to detect. They dont change melanin, so theyre the same color as your skin. Theyre often diagnosed late because of this.

The diameter of the spot or mole is also important. It may be a warning sign if its larger than 1/4 inch across , which is about the size of a pencil eraser.

Also note if the spot is evolving. Spots due to melanoma may grow or change color or shape. They may also start to itch or bleed. Benign spots and moles dont usually change.

shows that regular, yearly skin exams during doctor visits along with regular skin self-examinations can decrease the depth of melanomas at diagnosis.

The sign of skin cancer is a change to your skin like an evolving mole, a sore that doesnt heal, or a new growth.

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Are All Moles Cancerous

Most moles are not cancerous. Some moles are present at birth, others develop up to about age 40. Most adults have between 10 and 40 moles.

In rare cases, a mole can turn into melanoma. If you have more than 50 moles, you have an increased chance of developing melanoma.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It needs as much attention as any other health concern. What may seem like an innocent cosmetic imperfection, may not be. Performing regular skin self-checks is important for everyone and is especially important if you are a person at increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is also color-blind. If you are a person of color, skin cancer can happen to you. Check your skin every month for any changes in skin spots or any new skin growths. Consider taking skin selfies so you can easily see if spots change over time. If youre a person of color, be sure to check areas more prone to cancer development, such as the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, your genital area and under your nails. Takes steps to protect your skin. Always wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day of the year. Wear UV-A/UV-B protective sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts and pants. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/19/2021.


Should I Use A Skin Cancer Detection App

Anything that reminds you to look for signs of skin cancer is a good thing. However, some smartphone apps claim to be able to assess certain skin changes and inform individuals whether such changes warrant a visit to a dermatologist for further analysis.

Thus far, the accuracy of these is not high enough and relying solely on an app, rather than on your own observations and visits to a doctor, you could put yourself at risk by delaying a visit to the doctor when one is warranted. In one recent study, the most accurate skin cancer detection app missed almost 30% of melanomas, diagnosing them as low-risk lesions.

However, these apps are evolving, and one day they could become part of the arsenal to help detect skin cancer. Smartphones can be useful in terms of telemedicine. For instance, in locations where dermatologists may not be readily available, a local physician can send a photo of a suspicious mole to a dermatologist and based on visual inspection and communication with that physician, determine what steps to take next.

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