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Basal cell carcinoma

Understanding the symptoms of skin cancer

The most prevalent disease in the United States is skin cancer. The most harmful type is melanoma, and it is less common than other types of skin cancer.

Healthcare practitioners encourage individuals during the year to search periodically for symptoms of skin cancer. The outlook for each form of skin cancer is strengthened by early detection.

We will explain the symptoms of the most common skin cancer forms in this article and explain how to check the skin. As well as diagnosis and therapies, we will also evaluate prevention, causes, and risk factors.

Symptoms and warning signs

Symptoms and warning signs
Two forms of nonmelanoma skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

The Skin Cancer Foundation, based in the United States, says everyone can examine their entire body once a month, from head to toe, and take note of:

y new moles or growths
Growths or moles that have evolved
Moles or growths that have altered in another way substantially
Injuries that change, itch, bleed or have not healed
An irregular pink or brown spot, patch, or mole is the most common symptom of skin cancer.

Different types of skin cancer exist, and the most common are:

  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • melanoma

The type that is most likely to grow in a mole is melanoma.

Skin cancer may also be signalled by swollen lymph nodes. Beneath the skin, lymph nodes are small, bean-sized collections of immune cells. Most are in the neck, groin, and underarms.


  • Superficial spreading melanoma. Image credit: National Cancer Institute.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Basal cell carcinoma Image credit: DermNet New Zealand
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma Image credit: DermNet New Zealand
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma.

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers

Skin cancers of basal and squamous cells are more frequent and not as dangerous as melanoma. They can grow anywhere, but on the face, head, or neck, they are most likely to form.

A basal cell carcinoma may look like:

  • a flat, firm, pale or yellow area of skin, similar to a scar
  • a reddish, raised, sometimes itchy patch of skin
  • small shiny, pearly, pink or red translucent bumps, which can have blue, brown, or black areas.
  • pink growths that have raised edges and a lower center, and abnormal blood vessels may spread from the growth like the spokes of a wheel
  • open sores that may ooze or crust, and either do not heal or heal and return

A squamous cell carcinoma may look like:

  • a rough or scaly red patch that may crust or bleed
  • a raised growth or lump, sometimes with a lower center
  • open sores that may ooze or crust, and either do not heal or heal and return
  • a growth that looks like a wart

Not all cancers of the skin look similar. The American Cancer Society suggest that an individual should notify a doctor if they realize:

  • a mark that does not look like others on the body
  • a sore that does not heal
  • redness or new swelling outside the border of a mole
  • itching, pain, or tenderness in a mole
  • oozing, scaliness, or bleeding in a mole


Two strategies to spot the early signs of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, have been developed by the medical community.

The ABCDE technique and the ugly duckling method can be used by a person.

1. The ABCDE method

Brown spots, marks, and moles are usually harmless. However, what doctors call an atypical mole, or dysplastic nevi, can be the first symptom of melanoma. Check for the following in order to detect an atypical mole:

  • A: Asymmetry. This may be an early sign of melanoma if the two halves of a mole don’t match.
  • B: Border. A harmless mole’s edges are even and smooth. This may be an early sign of melanoma if a mole has irregular edges. Scalloped or notched can be the mole’s border.
  • C: Color.Harmless moles are a single shade, usually of brown. Shade differentiation, from tan, brown, or black to red, blue, or white, may be caused by melanoma.
  • D: Diameter. Harmless moles tend to be smaller than harmful ones, normally larger than the eraser of a pencil, around one-quarter of an inch or six millimeters.
  • E: Evolving. This can be a sign if a mole begins to change, or grow. Changes can include skin shape, color, or elevation. Or, a mole may start to bleed, itch, or crust.
image credit: Medicalnewstoday

The ugly duckling method

The ugly duckling strategy works on the premise that the moles of a person appear to imitate each other. It could be a sign of skin cancer if one mole stands out in some way.

Not all the moles and growths are cancerous, of course. However, if any of the above features are found by a person, they should talk to a healthcare professional.


Firstly, the skin will be checked by a doctor and a medical history recorded.

When the mark first appears, they will usually ask if its appearance has changed, if it has ever been painful or itchy, and whether it bleeds.

The doctor would also inquire about the family history of an individual and any other risk factors, such as exposure to the sun throughout life.

They can also look for other atypical moles and spots on the rest of the body. Lastly, to decide whether they are enlarged, they can feel the lymph nodes.

The doctor may refer a person to a skin doctor, a dermatologist, who may:

  • examine the mark with a dermatoscope, a handheld magnifying device
  • Take a small skin sample, biopsy it, and send it to a laboratory to scan for signs of cancer.

Causes and risk factors

Why such cells become cancerous is not clear to researchers. They have, however, detected risk factors for skin cancer.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is the most critical risk factor for melanoma. These damage the DNA of the skin cells, which regulates how the cells grow, divide, and remain alive.

The majority of UV rays come from sunlight, but from tanning beds, too.

Other risk factors include:

  • Moles – Melanoma is more likely to be formed by a person with more than 100 moles.
  • Fair skin, light hair, and freckles – Among people with light skin, the risk of developing melanoma is greater. Those who easily burn are at an increased risk.
  • Family history : About 10% of individuals with the disease have a family history of the disease.
  • Personal history: In a person who has already had it, melanoma is more likely to form. There is also an increased risk of developing melanoma among people who have had basal or squamous cell cancers.


Limiting exposure to UV rays is the best way to reduce the risk of skin cancer. By using sunscreen, finding shade, and covering up while outside, a person can do this.

Tanning beds and sunlamps should also be avoided for those trying to prevent skin cancer.

Noncancerous skin growths

Mistaking benign growths for skin cancer can be easy. The following skin conditions have common characteristics to skin cancer:

  • Seborrheic keratosis: brown, black, or tan growths that appear in older adults.
  • Cherry angioma or hemangioma: small growths, made up of blood vessels, that are typically red but may rupture and turn brown or black.
  • Freckles: flat, darker areas of skin that appear after the skin is exposed to UV light.
  • Dermatofibroma: small, firm, round bumps that form under the skin and may change color over time.
  • Skin tags: harmless, soft growths.


Radiation therapy is an alternative treatment for skin cancer.
Radiation therapy is an alternative treatment for skin cancer.

With minor surgery, a doctor usually removes basal cell and squamous cell cancers.

Radiation therapy, when a person can not undergo surgery, is an alternative procedure. A doctor can also prescribe this procedure when the cancer is in a position that would make surgery difficult, such as on the eyelids, nose, or ears.

The best therapy for melanoma would depend on the stage and location of the cancer. If melanoma is diagnosed early by a doctor, it can typically be removed with minor surgery.

Physicians may recommend other forms of surgery or radiation therapy in some cases.


Healthcare practitioners encourage individuals to search regularly for skin cancer signs.

Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the most common types of skin cancer. Regardless of the sort, getting a diagnosis early will boost the outlook.

This may signify skin cancer, as can the presence of sores that do not heal, if a mole or mark has undefined or rough edges, different colors, or is atypical in some way. Anyone with questions should talk to a doctor about marks, moles, or lesions.

The most critical risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to UV radiation. Staying safe in the sun is the safest way to avoid this disease.


  • Approach to the nevi (mole) exam. (n.d.)
  • Can melanoma skin cancer be prevented? (2016, May 20)
  • Do you know your ABCDEs? (n.d.)
  • How to spot skin cancer. (2018, May 1)
  • Prevention. (n.d.)
  • What are the symptoms of skin cancer? (LINK)
  • Risk factors for melanoma skin cancer. (2016, May 20)
  • Tests for melanoma skin cancer. (2016, May 20)
  • Treating basal cell carcinoma. (2016, May 10)
  • Treating squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. (2018, October 2)
  • Treatment of melanoma skin cancer, by stage. (2018, June 28)

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka MartinsĀ is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.