February 6, 2009

How to Recognize Early Signs of Skin Cancer

Any changes to your skin should be discussed promptly with your healthcare provider. In particular, the following lists of abnormalities may be signs of nonmelanoma skin cancer or melanoma.
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer:1

  • A sore that does not heal.
  • Areas of the skin that are:
    • Small, raised, smooth, shiny, and waxy.
    • Small, raised, and red or reddish-brown.
    • Flat, rough, red or brown, and scaly.
    • Scaly, bleeding, or crusty.
    • Similar to a scar and firm.


  • Change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole.
  • A black or blue-black area.
  • A new mole that may be black, abnormal, or “ugly looking.”
  • In particular, watch closely for these characteristics in new and existing moles:
    • Border—edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
    • Color—color is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.
    • Diameter—is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil (1/4 inch or 5 millimeters).


1 National Cancer Institute. Skin Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. Available at:  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/skin/Patient (Accessed November 28, 2007).2 National Cancer Institute. What You Need to Know About™ Melanoma. Available at:  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/melanoma/page8 (Accessed March 31, 2008).

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Tags: Skin Cancer, Uncategorized