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Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What Do the Early Stages of Skin Cancer Look Like?

What to Know About Early Stages of Skin Cancer


Early Signs of Skin Cancer to Look Out For

Detecting skin cancer early is the best way to ensure it is treated successfully. But how can skin cancer be detected early? The good thing about skin cancer is that it leaves easily identifiable marks on our bodies long before it becomes a serious problem. During skin cancer screenings your dermatologist will look for these telltale signs. We’ll help you identify them so that you can be on the lookout when you’re at home and, therefore, spot skin cancer early.

There are three common types of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. BCC and SCC are far more common than melanoma and are both non-life threatening. Melanoma, on the other hand, is the more aggressive of the three and typically causes serious complications, including death.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

BCC is the single most common type of skin cancer in the U.S. When detected early, BCC is typically successfully treated without complications or causing major harm to the patient.

It typically appears in spots that are most exposed to the sun or other sources of ultraviolet radiation (i.e, tanning beds), including the face, ears, neck, scalp, chest, back, and shoulders. Keep in mind, however, that while these places are most common, BCC can appear anywhere.

Be on the lookout for the following common signs and symptoms of BCC:

1. Open sores

Sores that do not heal are typically signs of BCC. These sores may bleed, ooze pus, or crust over.

2. Red, itchy skin

Red, dry, and itchy skin may appear on the sun-exposed areas. In certain cases, it may look and feel like a sunburn.

3. Glossy cyst

A bump or cyst may appear that looks shiny or glossy. It can be clear, red, pink, or white for people with fair skin. Those with darker skin may have these bumps appear tan, brown, or black.

4. Crusted pink bump

This pink bump is typically raised from the skin and has an indentation in the middle that is crusted. The bump may at some point develop small blood vessels so do your best not to scratch, touch, or otherwise irritate it.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer in the U.S. Like BCC, SCC can be treated easily and effectively when spotted early. However, when left untreated, SCC can become extremely problematic and dangerous. SCC, like BCC, most commonly appears in areas most exposed to UV rays. However, it may also appear on the lips, hands, and arms. Here’s what to look out for:

1. Strange-looking scars

Any pre-existing scars or areas of an injury can breed SCC. When these scars become infected, the skin around them begins to wrinkle or lose color.

2. Thick patches of skin

Patches of skin that seem thick, itchy, and red may be signs of SCC. These patches may crust over or even bleed.

3. Crusted pink bump

Just like with BCC, SCC may appear as an unusual growth that is raised and has an indentation at the center.


Melanoma is a far more serious skin cancer that begins in the cells responsible for pigmentation. It is aggressive and fast-moving, which is why early detection is critical. Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body. It is known to develop most commonly in areas exposed to the sun, but it can also appear on the hands, lips, soles of the feet, and legs. The easiest way to spot melanoma early is to notice strange moles or changes in existing ones. The best way to do this is to follow the ABCDEs:

A- Asymmetrical

Does one half of the mole look different than the other half?

B- Border

Is the border undefined and blurry?

C- Color

Does the mole have different shades of colors?

D- Diameter

Is the mole bigger than 6mm? Or bigger than a pencil eraser?

E- Evolving

Has the mole changed in any way? In shape, size, color, hair growth, etc?

These are the most common signs of skin cancer that can help you detect it early, however, everyone is different and symptoms may vary.

If you are in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and want to explore your treatment options, our experts at The Dermatology Group are ready to give you the advice, resources, and treatment you need. Give us a call today!

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