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Skin Cancer Signs, Symptoms and Types

Being aware of any changes to your skin is the best way to aid in the early detection of skin cancer. The symptoms below are not always signs of skin cancer, but if you notice one or more of them for more than two weeks, talk to one of the skin cancer experts at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer?

The physical symptoms of skin cancer vary from person to person and by type. Symptoms may include:

  • Visible changes on the skin – this could be as a new spot or mole, or one that changes in appearance - size, shape or color
  • A mole that bleeds
  • A bleeding or scabbing sore that doesn’t heal
  • A spot or sore that itches, burns or is tender
  • A small, smooth, shiny, pale or waxy lump
  • A firm red nodule that may bleed or develops a crust
  • A flat, red lesion that is rough, scaly or crusty
  • A large, brownish spot with speckles

Types of Skin Cancer

There are several different types of skin cancer. The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These are usually referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers.

  • Basal cell: This type of skin cancer begins in the basal cells of the skin. It accounts for more than 90 percent of all skin cancers in the U.S. It is a slow-growing cancer that most often appears in areas that have higher sun exposure like your head and neck. Basal cell carcinoma seldom spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Squamous cell: This type of skin cancer is much less common than basal cell. Squamous cell skin cancer can be found in many places in your body and is more likely to spread.

The most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma. It is more likely than non-melanoma skin cancers to invade healthy tissue and spread to other parts of the body. 

Melanomas usually occur on or around existing moles and can develop anywhere on your body, including areas that don’t receive a lot of sun exposure. The most common site in men is the back, while for women melanoma is found on the leg. Luckily, melanoma can be treated successfully if caught early.

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