How Well Do You Know the Warning Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is often associated with skin that has been exposed to sun, but this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not normally exposed to sunlight. Check out this article to learn the three most common types of skin cancer – and the signs and symptoms to look for.

There are three major types of skin cancer. Each are unique in their signs and symptoms. Read on to learn what you should look for and when you should see your primary care physician.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This type of skin cancer usually occurs in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as on your neck or face. Basal cell carcinoma may appear as:

  • A pearly or waxy bump
  • A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
  • A bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and returns

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma will often occur on sun-exposed areas of your body, such as on your face, ears and/or hands. People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma on areas that aren’t often exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:

  • A firm, red nodule
  • A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface


Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body, in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that becomes cancerous. Melanoma can affect people of any skin tone. Melanoma signs can include:

  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles
  • A mole that changes in color, size or feel or one that bleeds
  • A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black
  • A painful lesion that itches or burns
  • Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus

A simple way to remember the warning signs is by the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:

  • “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  • “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
  • “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

Reduce Your Risk

  • Avoid/limit exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.
  • Stay in the shade when outside.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

Regular examination of your skin for any new or unusual growths, or changes in the size, shape or color of an existing spot, is key to finding and treating skin cancer early. If you find anything suspicious, discuss it with your primary care physician or a dermatologist. An annual check-up with your dermatologist is always a good idea. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.


“Skin Cancer,” Mayo Clinic,, July 7, 2021.

“What Are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?”, July 7, 2021.