Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. If you know what to look for, you can spot warning signs of skin cancer early. Finding it early, when it’s small and has not spread, makes skin cancer much easier to treat.
Some doctors and other health care professionals include skin exams as part of routine health check-ups. Many doctors also recommend that you check your own skin about once a month. Look at your skin in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see.
Use the “ABCDE rule” to look for some of the common signs of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer:
One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
The spot is larger than ¼ inch across – about the size of a pencil eraser – although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are more common than melanomas, but they are usually very treatable.
Both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, or cancers, usually grow on parts of the body that get the most sun, such as the face, head, and neck. But they can show up anywhere.
Basal cell carcinomas: what to look for:
Squamous cell carcinomas: what to look for:
Not all skin cancers look like these descriptions, though. Point out anything you’re concerned about to your doctor, including:
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.