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What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?5 min read

What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
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Noticing changes in your skin can be worrying, especially when you’re unsure what to look for. 

Skin cancer comes in various forms, each with distinct characteristics. Identifying these signs early can make all the difference in effective treatment and peace of mind.

We want to help you understand the visual cues and symptoms of skin cancer, and options of mole removal, empowering you to take proactive steps in maintaining your skin health.

How Can You Identify Early Signs of Skin Cancer?
How Can You Identify Early Signs of Skin Cancer?

Early detection of skin cancer is essential for effective treatment and better outcomes. Begin by conducting regular self-examinations, looking for new or unusual growths, such as moles or spots that change in size, shape, or color. 

The ABCDE rule is a helpful guideline: 

  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole doesn’t match the other.
  • Border irregularity: Edges are ragged or blurred.
  • Color variation: Different shades within the same mole.
  • Diameter: Larger than 6mm.
  • Evolving: Any change in size, shape, color, or symptoms like itching or bleeding.

Spots that persistently itch, bleed, or do not heal should be checked. Annual skin check-ups with a professional can catch these signs early and increase the chances of successful treatment.

What Are the Common Visual Indicators of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer presents in various forms, and recognizing these signs early can be life-saving. 

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: Often appears as pearly or waxy bumps, sometimes with visible blood vessels, or as a flat, flesh-colored, or brown scar-like lesion. 
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Typically manifests as rough, scaly patches or red nodules that may crust or bleed. 
  • Melanoma: The most serious type, can develop in an existing mole or appear as a new, dark spot. It usually has an irregular shape and varied colors, including shades of black, brown, and tan, and may be larger than other moles. Some melanomas can also appear as pink, red, purple, blue, or white. 

Regularly monitoring your skin for these visual indicators and seeking professional advice when changes are noticed can significantly improve the chances of early detection and effective treatment.

Are All Skin Changes Indicative of Skin Cancer?

Not all skin changes are indicative of skin cancer. Many benign conditions, such as warts, cysts, or non-cancerous moles, can cause changes in the skin. It’s essential to differentiate these from potentially harmful changes. 

  • Warts: They are small, rough growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They often appear on the hands, fingers, or feet and have a grainy, flesh-colored, or grayish surface. Common types include plantar warts (on the soles of the feet) and flat warts (smoother, flatter, and found on the face or legs).
  • Cysts: Closed pockets of tissue that can be filled with fluid, pus, or other material. They typically appear as smooth, round lumps under the skin and can vary in size. Cysts may be painful if infected but are usually benign.
  • Non-Cancerous Moles: Benign moles are usually uniform in color (brown, black, or tan), round or oval, and have well-defined borders. They can be flat or raised and generally remain consistent in appearance over time. 

If you notice any new or unusual skin changes, particularly those that persist or worsen, it’s essential to consult a dermatologist for a professional evaluation. 

Mole removal

How Can I Differentiate between a Mole and Skin Cancer?

Moles are usually uniform in color and shape, with well-defined borders. Skin cancer, on the other hand, may exhibit irregularities in shape, color, and border. Skin cancer often changes over time, whereas benign moles typically remain consistent. 

If a mole becomes asymmetrical, develops an irregular border, shows multiple colors, increases size, or evolves in any other way, it’s important to consult Dr. Chang for an evaluation.

What Types of Moles Should I Be Concerned About?

You should be concerned about moles that show significant size, shape, or color changes. Asymmetrical moles with uneven borders, multiple colors, or larger than 6mm in diameter may be cause for concern. 

Moles that bleed, itch, or become tender should also be examined. Dr. Chang should check any new moles appearing after the age of 30 to rule out skin cancer.

Is It Possible to Remove Moles without Scarring?

Yes, removing moles without significant scarring is possible, especially when they are small, and Dr. Chang and his expert team perform the removal at a reasonable cost. 

Techniques such as laser removal, shave excision, or surgical excision can be used. The method chosen will depend on the type and location of the mole and the desired cosmetic outcome. Proper aftercare is essential to minimize scarring.

What Are the Different Appearances of Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Melanoma often appears as a new or changing mole with asymmetry, irregular borders, multiple colors, and a larger diameter. 

Basal Cell Carcinoma usually presents as a pearly or waxy bump, sometimes with visible blood vessels, and may also appear as a flat, flesh-colored, or brown scar-like lesion. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma typically resembles a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface. Recognizing these different appearances is vital to early detection and treatment.

Can I Get Screened for Skin Cancer?

Yes, you can and should get screened for skin cancer, particularly if you have risk factors such as fair skin, a history of sunburns, or a family history of skin cancer. 

Dr. Chang offers professional skin cancer screenings, which involve thoroughly examining your skin for any suspicious moles or lesions. Regular screenings are crucial for early detection and effective treatment. 

How Can I Protect My Skin?

Protecting your skin from sun damage is essential to preventing skin cancer. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. 

Wear protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses, and seek shade during peak sun hours. Avoid tanning beds and stay vigilant about checking your skin for any changes. 

Incorporating a Vitamin C serum into your skincare routine can also help repair and brighten your skin without tanning in the sun. 

Mole removal

Count On Our Products and Treatments for Healthy Skin!

Whether you want to prevent damage or enhance your natural glow, we have the products and treatments you need. 


Meet us at 19500 Sandridge Way, Suite 350, Leesburg, VA 20176, or call us at (703) 574-4342 for a complimentary consultation with Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Phillip Chang before proceeding with your procedure. If everything matches up, our team will help you navigate the entire process from beginning to end. Also, remember to check out our blog and social media for more information on cosmetic surgery trends!

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