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How to Recognize Skin Cancer Symptoms

Updated on August 21, 2014

Skin cancer can form anywhere on your body, although it usually develops on exposed areas--such as the face, arms, legs, neck and hands. However, it can also develop in hidden places--such as your genital area or under your fingernails and toenails. There are three major types of skin cancer, and recognizing these skin cancer symptoms can help you determine if you need to seek medical help.

Melanoma Symptoms

Melanoma is the most aggressive and dangerous of the three skin cancer types. It can develop anywhere on the body, although in women, it frequently occurs on the lower leg area. In men, it tends to form on the head, neck, or trunk region. This type of skin cancer takes the shape of a mole, and can develop whether you have been exposed to the sun or not. The melanoma skin cancer symptoms have been categorized as the ABCDEs.

  • Asymmetry: The mole is not even on both sides.
  • Borders: The edges of the mole are irregular, and are subject to bleeding or crusting over.
  • Color: There is a change in the mole's color.
  • Diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than 1/4 inch--the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolution: The mole seems to be growing or changing in other ways; for example, it may start itching, or there may be a cluster of moles.

Hidden melanoma is rare, but it can occur under the fingernail or toenail. Ocular melanoma forms in the white of the eye.

Basal Cell Carcinoma Symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer is more common than melanoma, but it is also less dangerous. This type of skin cancer usually develops in areas of your body that have been exposed to the sun. Symptoms include the appearance of brown, blue/black, or reddish skin on the back or chest area. Also, you may notice a red spot with a dent in the center, or a flesh-colored or white pearly bump. Sores that bleed and never seem to heal are another symptom that should not be ignored.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Symptoms

Squamous cell carcinoma cancer is also more prevalent than melanoma, and like basal cell carcinoma, it has a better prognosis. It usually develops on areas of your body that have been exposed to the sun, such as your face, neck, hands and arms, or ears. Squamous cell carcinoma symptoms include a bump or sore that begins to bleed and never heals, or gets larger over time. Other symptoms include changes or growths in existing moles, warts, or skin lesions.


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