Skin Cancer | Symptoms

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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.

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 skin cancer look like?

Skin cancer can look different, depending on the type and location of the cancer. 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. Check your skin often and see your doctor if you notice any new bumps, growths, lesions, or rough patches of skin, or if you have new or suspicious looking moles.

A normal mole is solid tan, brown, dark brown or flesh colored. Its edges are well-defined. It's usually smaller than 1/4 inch in diameter and has a round or oval shape. It should be flat or dome-like.

The ABCDE rule can help you remember what to look for when you're checking 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.

What are some other signs of skin cancer?

Other signs of skin cancer may include the following:

  • 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 new mole that appears after you are 30 years of age.
  • A place on your skin that feels rough, like sandpaper
  • Patches of skin that have changed color, including brown, red, white, blue, or black

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.

Bibliography

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

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 01/96

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