Skin Cancer

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Basal cell carcinoma appears as a small, pink bump or patch. Although basal cell carcinoma is usually found on the head or neck, it may be on any part of the body. If untreated, it may ulcerate, bleed, or crust over.

Squamous cell carcinoma can look like basal cell carcinoma, but it is usually more scaly and rough. This type of cancer is often found on the head and neck, but it also has a tendency to grow on the ears, lips, and the backs of the arms and hands. It can also develop in areas of skin that have scars or ulcers.

Melanoma usually appears as an irregular brown, black, and/or red spot or changing mole. Among white men, melanoma appears most frequently on the trunk; among white women, on the lower leg. Among blacks, although melanoma is rare, it appears most frequently on the palms, the soles of the feet, and the skin under nails.

While the above describes the typical appearance of skin cancer, symptoms vary from person to person and may include:

  • a change on the skin, such as a new spot or one that changes in size, shape, or color
  • a sore that doesn't heal
  • a spot or sore that changes in sensation, itchiness, tenderness, or pain
  • a small, smooth, shiny, pale, or waxy lump
  • a firm red lump that may bleed or develops a crust
  • a flat, red spot that is rough, dry, or scaly

You can have these symptoms without having cancer, but if you notice one or more of them for more than two weeks, see your doctor.

Last reviewed on 7/21/09

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