Could It Be Skin Cancer? Learn The Warning Signs

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin Cancer is caused by an uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. As a cancer that usually develops in the top layer of the skin, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun is a major contributing factor for most skin cancers. As the most common form of cancer in the United States, it is vital to learn the warning signs of skin cancer.


There are three main types of skin cancers:

·      Basal Cell Carcinoma
·      Squamous Cell Carcinoma
·      Melanoma


Basal Cell Carcinoma

The most common form of skin cancer is Basal Cell Carcinoma. More than 4 million cases are diagnosed in the US annually1. Basal Cell Carcinoma sometimes can resemble noncancerous skin conditions. If you notice any of the following warning signs in your skin, contact your dermatologist immediately.

What to look for:

·      A persistent, non-healing sore - an open sore that bleeds, oozes or crusts and reopens for weeks

·      A shiny bump or nodule that is pearly or translucent and is often pink, red or white

·      A reddish patch or irritated area that sometimes crusts and may itch or hurt

·      A pink growth with an elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center

·      A scar-like area that is white, yellow or waxy, and often with poorly defined borders


Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. Over 1 million cases are diagnosed annually in the US2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma typically appears as persistent, thick, rough, scaly patches that can bleed if bumped, scratched, or scraped. They can look like warts and sometimes appear as open sores with a raised border and a crusted surface. If you notice any of the following warning signs in your skin, contact your dermatologist immediately.

What to look for:

·      An elevated growth with a central depression that occasionally bleeds

·      A persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that may crust or bleed

·      A wart-like growth that crusts and occasionally bleeds

·      An open sore that bleeds and crusts that persisting for weeks



As the deadliest form of skin cancer, it is so vital to catch the early warning signs of Melanoma. If you notice an ugly duckling mole (a mole that doesn’t look like any others on your body) use the ABCDEs of melanoma. This can help both you and your dermatologist detect this disease early.

What to look for:


·      A is for Asymmetry – An asymmetrical mole has sides that do not match

·      B is for Border – The borders of melanomas tend to be uneven, with scalloped or notched edges.

·      C is for Color – Melanomas are often multicolored, in shades of brown or black, or even red, white or blue. If you notice a mole is darker than the rest, contact your dermatologist to schedule a Total Body Skin Exam.

·      D is for Diameter – Melanomas are usually bigger than a pencil eraser (1/4” or 6mm) in diameter.

·      E is for Evolving – Common moles look the same over time. Keep an eye out for moles that evolve or change in any way.


How to Prevent Skin Cancer

Those who spend more time exposing their skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays are at a greater risk to develop skin cancer. One of the main things to do to protect your skin is to decrease your exposure to UV light. This means avoiding direct sunlight and tanning beds. When you are out in the sun, make sure you are wearing protective clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

In addition to protecting your skin on a daily basis, it is so important to check your own skin once a month. By giving yourself a self-skin exam, this allows you to get to know your skin. Learn the patterns of your moles, blemishes, freckles, and any other marks on your skin. When you know what is normal, seeing anything abnormal will alarm you immediately and make you call your dermatologist. Catching the signs of skin cancer early can save your life.