How to Spot Skin Cancer(How to Spot Skin Cancer )

Beauty marks can certainly be beautiful. “But sometimes a mole can convert to something serious like melanoma,” says Rex Amonette, MD, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation. “Regular skin checks by a doctor are key to catching suspicious moles early.”

Images to help you identify an unhealthy mark

A harmless mole

Looks like: A symmetrical mark uniform in color with smooth borders; it’s usually smaller than a quarter-inch.

Need to know: They crop up in early childhood. Study your spots once a month when you do a self-exam. Talk to your doctor if any change shape, color, or elevation, or bleed, itch, or crust—possible signs of skin cancer.


Looks like: An asymmetrical mole with uneven borders that tend to be scalloped; it’s larger than a pencil eraser and may contain two or more shades of black, brown, red, white, or blue. It can be a new mole or one you’ve had.

Need to know: Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer since it can spread to other parts of the body. Caught early, it’s curable.

Actinic keratosis

Looks like: Small crusty or scaly bumps or patches that can be tan, pink, red, or flesh-colored. They have a rough texture and may itch or feel tender to the touch.

Need to know: They are precancerous growths that usually develop on your face, lips, ears, scalp, neck, forearms, and backs of your hands. They don’t always turn into cancer but should be removed.

Basal cell carcinoma

Looks like: A reddish patch, pearly pink, red, or white bump, or sore that bleeds, oozes, or stays open for several weeks or heals and then comes back again.

Need to know: Unlike melanoma, basal cell carcinoma doesn’t crop up in existing moles. Instead, it forms from skin damaged by sunburns and UV rays. If caught, it’s easy to treat and isn’t life-threatening.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Looks like: A thick, rough, wartlike growth, a scaly red patch with irregular borders, or an open sore that crusts or bleeds.

Need to know: They don’t crop up in existing moles and are most common on the face, lower lip, neck, arms, scalp, backs of the hands, and ears in people with fair complexions. Typically squamous cell carcinoma can be cured if caught early.

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