Skin Cancer - Symptoms

All forms of skin cancer develop according to a similar pattern. The first sign of a cancer is usually a change in the appearance of an existing mole, the presence of a new mole, or a change in the appearance of an area of the skin.

Basal cell cancer usually appears as a small lesion (wound) in the skin that lasts for at least three weeks. The lesion (pronounced LEE-zhun) looks flat and waxy, with shiny, rounded edges. There may be a sore at the center of the lesion that makes it look like a dimple. The lesion slowly grows larger if it is not treated.

A squamous cell cancer generally begins as a small raised bump on the skin. The bump may have a sore at its center. It usually does not itch or cause pain.

A common symptom of melanoma is a change in an existing mole. The mole may change color, size or shape. It may become tender or itchy. If it starts to bleed, the cancer may already have begun to progress.

Specialists often recommend the ABCD rule in checking for melanomas. These letters come from the following steps:

  • A symmetry. Moles are normally round. If a mole begins to take an unusual (asymmetric) shape, it may be cancerous.
  • B order. A normal mole has a clear-cut border with the surrounding skin. A cancerous mole has an uneven border.
  • C olor. Normal moles are tan or brown. A cancerous mole may be any mixture of red, white, blue, brown, purple, and/or black.
  • D iameter. A normal mole is usually less than 5 millimeters (.25 inches) in diameter. Any mole that grows larger than that size may be cancerous.

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