How to Spot the Signs of Skin Cancer Early

Signs of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.

There are three types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. (1)

Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms due to its ability to metastasize quickly if not treated early on. (2)

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. (3)

Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable and curable cancers if caught early enough.

The question is:

How to spot the signs of skin cancer early

Basically, I will explain the signs of the three types of skin cancer.

That way, you can know what to look out for.


The ABCDE rule is a quick and easy way to check for signs of melanoma. (4)

  • A is for Asymmetry: The cancerous mole will be asymmetrical, meaning that one half does not match the other.
  • B is for Border: The borders of a cancerous mole will be irregular, ragged, or notched.
  • C is for Color: A cancerous mole will be a mixture of colors, including black, brown, blue-gray, and purple.
  • D is for Diameter: If the diameter of a mole is larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser), it could be melanoma.
  • E is for Evolving: A cancerous mole will change in size, shape, or color over time.
Signs of Skin Cancer
ABCDE of melanoma detection (Photo via
Signs of Skin Cancer
ABCDE of melanoma (Photo via

Other signs to look out for include moles that are itchy or painful, and any skin changes such as a new growth, sore that doesn’t heal, or itchiness.

It is recommended to examine your skin from head to toe once a month to look for any changes in moles or lesions.

In addition to checking your skin regularly, see a dermatologist at least once a year for a skin exam.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can be dangerous if left untreated.

The most common warning signs of this condition include skin lesions, bumps, or patches that are raised, pale, or red in color.

Additionally, these lesions may crust over or ooze and tend to bleed easily.

Other symptoms of basal cell carcinoma can include itching and scaling skin on the affected area. (5, 6, 7)

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the cells of the skin’s outermost layer.

The majority of squamous cell carcinomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. (8)

While squamous cell carcinoma can occur anywhere on the body.

It is most commonly found in areas that receive the most sun exposure, such as the face, neck, chest, and back.

Although squamous cell carcinoma is not as aggressive as other types of skin cancer, it can still spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. (9, 10)

For this reason, it is important to be aware of the following skin cancer warning signs:

  • A growth or sore on the skin that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and does not heal within four weeks
  • A persistent skin rash that does not improve with over-the-counter treatments
  • A spot or mole on the skin that changes in size, shape, or color
  • A patch of skin that is red, scaly, or crusted and does not go away after a few days

If you notice any of these skin cancer warning signs, it is important to see a doctor for a professional evaluation.

The bottom line

The most common early sign of skin cancer is a change in the color, shape, size, or feel of a mole or other lesion on the skin.

Other signs of skin cancer include a sore that doesn’t heal quickly, a lump or bump on the skin, itching or burning sensations on the skin, and bleeding from a lesion.

If you notice any changes in your skin, make an appointment with your doctor for a check-up.

Early detection of skin cancer is key to successful treatment, so it’s important not to ignore any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Spot the Signs of Skin Cancer

Also read: 7 Cancer Symptoms That Are Often Overlooked