Skin Cancer | Symptoms


On what parts of the body is skin cancer most likely to occur?

Most skin cancers occur on parts of the body that are repeatedly exposed to the sun. These areas include the head, neck, face, tips of the ears, hands, forearms, shoulders, back, chests of men, and the back and lower legs of women.

What does skin cancer look like?

It's important to find skin cancer as early as possible. The best way to do this is to keep an eye on your skin, especially moles. The ABCDE rule can help you remember what to look for when you're checking any moles on your skin. If you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor right away.

Signs of skin cancer: The ABCDE rule

A for asymmetry: A mole that, when divided in half, doesn't look the same on both sides.

B for border: A mole with edges that are blurry or jagged.

C for color: Changes in the color of a mole, including darkening, spread of color, loss of color, or the appearance of multiple colors such as blue, red, white, pink, purple or gray.

D for diameter: A mole larger than 1/4 inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser).

E for elevation: A mole that is raised above the skin and has an uneven surface.

Where do melanomas occur?

Melanomas can be anywhere on your body. In men, they are most often on the chest, stomach or back. In women, they are most often on the lower legs.

What does a melanoma look like?

A melanoma might look like a mole or a bump or growth on your skin. Melanomas often do not look bad at first.

The ABCDE rule can help you remember what to look for when you're checking any moles on your skin.

Other signs include

  • A mole that bleeds
  • A fast-growing mole
  • A scaly or crusted growth on the skin
  • A sore that won't heal
  • A mole that itches
  • A place on your skin that feels rough, like sandpaper

Also be aware that moles can grow in hidden areas of your body, such as between toes, on your scalp or under a nail. If you notice a mole that has changed, or if you have a new mole that doesn't look like your other moles, visit your doctor right away.


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 01/96