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What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

  • With skin cancer being the most common form of cancer diagnosed, and also the most preventable if caught early, it’s important to understand some of the first signs of skin cancer and exactly what it may look like
  • There are three possible forms that skin cancer can take, and they’re not always caused from excess exposure to ultraviolet light: squamous cell skin cancer, basal cell skin cancer and
  • Among some of the many skin cancer warning signs for the various include the development of pearly bumps on the head or neck, the appearance of red nodules or flat, scaly lesions on areas like the face and ears, and areas on the skin that bleed


For all the talk we hear about different types of cancer, you may be surprised to learn that skin cancer is actually the most common. In the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. Thankfully, skin cancer is also one of the least fatal and most treatable forms of cancer, especially when caught early. However, in order to catch this disease early on, you need an answer to the question: what does skin cancer look like? Before we answer that question, let’s talk a little bit more about skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Basics

While skin cancer is normally discussed as a single disease, it comes in three major types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The latter is the most serious of the three. Another false idea about skin cancer is that it is only caused by exposure to ultraviolent radiation. Actually, this type of cancer can even develop on parts of your body with limited sun exposure. Heredity, radiation treatments, and exposure to certain chemicals can also cause skin cancer.

Do not assume you will not develop skin cancer because you do not spend much time in the sun or because you always use sunscreen. While these steps do minimize your risk, they do not eliminate it completely.

Signs of Skin Cancer

According to the British Association of Dermatologists, you should check your skin at least once a month. Look for marks that show any of the following symptoms: continued growth, bleeding, appearance changes, or failure to heal completely. Also, be on the lookout for actinic keratoses. These are rough pink or red spots that appear on parts of the body most frequently exposed to the sun. These spots can indicate a pre-cancerous stage. Treatment at this point can sometimes prevent the development of full-blown skin cancer.

You also need to know the answer to what does skin cancer looks like if you are going to properly check your skin for problem signs. The Mayo Clinic offers good definitions for each of the three major types of skin cancer and also provides photographs on their Web site.

With basal cell carcinoma, you’ll notice pearly bumps on your head and neck or flat, scar-like lesions on your upper body. This is the most common type of skin cancer and treatment is very effective.

With squamous cell carcinoma, you’ll usually notice red nodules or flat, scaly lesions on parts of your body such as your face, ears, neck, arms, or hands. You want to catch this type early because it can spread to other parts of your body if not treated early.

Melanoma is the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer. Unfortunately, it can take on many appearances on your body and it can crop up almost anywhere on your skin. Look for moles that change in appearance or bleed. Lesions with irregular borders, brownish, speckled spots, and shiny dome-shaped bumps on any part of your body should be investigated by a physician.

The bottom line is that if you see any spot on your body that makes you suspicious, don’t take a chance. Have it checked out by a physician.

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The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

One Response to “What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?”

  1. 1
    Monique Says:
    You say that staying out of the sun is not enough as a preventative measure for skin cancer. What are some other things we can do, i.e. what else can cause this nasty disease?