How to Spot Skin Cancer

From a discoloured patch on the skin to a mole that has changed in appearance, would you spot the signs of skin cancer? This type of cancer is characterised by the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that doesn’t heal, most often appearing on the face, ears, hands and shoulders. Here, we reveal the signs and symptoms of different types of skin cancer…

BASAL CELL CANCERS  – Skin cancer can come in the form of a basal cell cancer (BCC), sometimes called a rodent ulcer. The disease affects the bottom of the epidermis, the outermost layers of cells in the skin.

Signs and symptoms of BCCs, include a growth that:

  • looks smooth and pearly
  • appears waxy
  • appears as a firm, red lump 
  • sometimes bleed
  • develops a crust or scab
  • begins to heal but never completely heal
  • is itchy
  • looks like a flat, red spot that is scaly and crusty
  • develops into a painless ulcer

SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA – Another form of non-melanoma, skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer of the keratinocyte cells, in the outer layer of the skin. They are mainly found on the face, neck, bald scalps, arms, backs of hands and lower legs. Squamous cell cancers, the second most common type of skin cancer, may:

  • look scaly
  • have a hard, crusty cap
  • make the skin raised in the area of the cancer
  • feel tender to touch
  • bleed sometimes


Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but they most commonly appear on the back, legs, arms and face and even underneath a nail. Though less common, they often spread to other organs in the body, making them more deadly.  The most common sign is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.  Signs to look out for include a mole that is:

  • getting bigger
  • changing shape
  • changing colour
  • bleeding or becoming crusty
  • itchy or painful
  • A helpful way to tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma is the ABCDE checklist:

    Asymmetrical – melanomas have two very different halves and are an irregular shape.

    Border – melanomas have a notched or ragged border.

    Colours – melanomas will be a mix of two or more colours.

    Diameter – melanomas are larger than 6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter.

    Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma.


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