5 Telling Signs Of Skin Cancer

According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common type of cancer in the U.S. is skin cancer. Detecting skin cancer early increases your chances of survival as well as often decreasing the size of surgery and the possible need for radiation, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.

While Basal Cell Carcinomas (the most common skin cancer) generally cause local destruction of adjacent tissue, melanoma can rapidly metastasize to other vital organs if left untreated. “Initially, the only signs that appear are visual and not physical,” shares Dr. Aron Gewirtzman, board-certified dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. You may not feel symptoms of illness, but you will notice changes in your skin. Here are some warning signs of skin cancer you should look out for.

Moles on Your Skin

Moles are a cluster of melanocytes residing in your skin. “If a mole on your skin starts changing its color, size, or shape, set up an appointment with your dermatologist to check it out,” Dr. Gewirtzman suggests. Some moles can evolve into a cancerous form, even if they have been present for many years. Other skin cancers arise de novo, not preceded by a mole. A helpful mnemonic to remind you of what to look for is the “ABCDE’s” where:

  • A= Asymmetry
  • B= Irregular Borders
  • C= multiple Colors
  • D= large Diameter (over 6mm)
  • E= Evolution (i.e. change)

While not all moles are perfectly symmetric and normal moles may be large, the more ABCDE criteria a mole fits, the greater chance it may be a malignancy and should be investigated. Another helpful rule of thumb is the “ugly duckling sign” where if one mole looks very different than the rest, it is potentially concerning.  

Nodules Under Your Skin

A nodule is a growth that is over 1 cm in diameter and raises the skin. It can be present either directly on top of the skin and be easily visible, or can be subcutaneous (underneath the skin) and be easier felt than seen. Not all nodules are cancerous (for example cysts or lipomas), but skin cancers and even more concerning, skin cancer metastases can be nodular. “Nodules come in many varieties and can be white, red, pink, clear, or have a pearl-like color,” says Gewirtzman. In people with darker hair, this bump can be black, brown, or tan.

Itchy Patch of Skin

An irritated or itchy area on your body may be a sign of non-melanoma skin cancer. This patch may crust over and become very itchy, causing discomfort and pain.

Pink Growth on Your Skin

A pink growth, with a rolled and slightly elevated border, and a crusted hollow in the middle of this growth, is a sign of basal cell carcinoma. These may also have telangiectasias, or small dilated blood vessels visible.

Dark Line Beneath Your Fingernails 

“If you notice that there is a dark line beneath your fingernails that doesn’t fade like a bruise, this may be a sign of skin cancer,” shares Dr. Gewirtzman. It is particularly concerning if the dark line extends onto the cuticle.

Contact Us

It is crucial to know what dermatological changes you are looking for and when it is time to seek advice from a medical expert. Routine self-assessments are effective as a proactive measure for early detection. Contact our expert team of providers as soon as possible if you notice any of these skin cancer signs.

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