Skin Cancer Symptoms

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Different types of skin cancer may have different symptoms. These include changes in the skin that is affected. Sometimes skin cancer may begin from an abnormally growing mole, discoloured skin, ulcers and wounds over skin that does not heal. There may be changes in existing moles such as development of jagged edges, and enlargement of the lesion.

Symptoms of Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers

Symptoms of basal cell and squamous cell cancer are more common as these are more commonly found than melanoma. A change on the skin is the commonest sign of these cancers. There may be an ulcer or sore that does not heal or a new growth or a change in an existing growth over the skin. Not all skin cancers look the same. Usually there is no pain associated with the cancer.

Common symptoms of basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer include:

Symptoms of Malignant Melanoma

The first sign of a melanoma is usually a change in an existing mole. There may be a sudden or gradual change in shape, color, size, or consistency of feel of the mole.

The symptoms of malignant melanoma are often remembered according to the mnemonic – “ABCDE”. These include:-

  • Asymmetry – one half of the mole does not resemble the other half.
  • Border that is irregular – jagged, notched or blurred edges of the mole or pigment. The pigment from the mole may spread from it to the surrounding non pigmented skin as well.
  • Color which is uneven – a uniformly appearing black, brown mole may grow to show a variegated pattern of colors that may have shades of black, brown, and rust along with areas of gray, red, pink, blue or white patches on the mole.
  • Diameter that is altered – usually an increase in size is seen. Melanomas can be small but most are larger than 6 millimeters or about 1/4 inch (roughly the size of a pea).
  • Evolving or changing – the mole that transforms into a melanoma changes over weeks or months. The texture of the mole may also change. There may be a scraped or broken appearance of the mole due to breakdown of the skin overlying it. The mole itself may become hard or lumpy. There may be some oozing or bleeding over the surface of the mole. A melanoma is accompanied by itching, pain and irritation.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 21, 2013

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