Signs of Skin Cancer: 6 Symptoms You May Not Know About

One single sunburn increases your risk for skin cancer. If you think you’re safe, think again. Skin cancer, among other cancers, is more common than you would expect. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans develop it during their lifetime.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends everyone do a monthly head-to-toe check to look for any changing moles or lesions on the body that may be cancerous or precancerous. Skin cancers that are found and removed early on are almost always curable, even melanoma. Early treatment is important for all types of skin cancer. We’ve rounded up six skin cancer symptoms to look for that may help with early detection.

1. ABCDE rule

Doctor writing medical certificate

Watch out for this symptom of skin cancer. | iStock.com

The ABCDE rule is crucial when looking for skin cancer.

  • A is for asymmetry: One half of a mole/birthmark doesn’t match the other.
  • B is for border: Edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for color: The color of the mole/birthmark may include different shades of color, or patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for diameter: The spot is larger than ¼-inch, although melanomas may be smaller.
  • E is for evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

2. Abnormal sore

hand wound caused by an accident

Abnormal sores could be a sign of something worse. | iStock.com/wissanu01

Do you have a lesion that just won’t heal? Sometimes the source of cuts, sores, or bruises we get slip our minds, but if you have a sore that won’t heal after weeks, go see your doctor. In addition, sores that ooze, bleed, are scaly, or grow a bump need to be examined. Sometimes these sores may look like light scars (not always visible) or appear as an irritated area.

3. Itching, pain, numbness, or tingling

Woman scratching her arm

Watch for abnormal itching. | iStock.com/Tharakorn

Skin cancer can affect the nerves which may cause any of these symptoms. If you experience these signs in one confined area but may not have a noticeable skin abnormality, still contact your doctor.

4. Look in abnormal locations

swollen joints, painful swelling, arthritis

Skin cancer isn’t always obvious. | iStock.com

For those with darker skin tones, skin cancer can form on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. Although these locations are rare, it is very possible for them to occur. Be sure to check every part of your body for abnormal skin changes. You can even develop skin cancer in locations that aren’t exposed to the sun, such as genitals, underarms, scalp, and between toes and fingernails.

5. Dark bruise

Woman with shoe sitting outdoors and massaging ankle

Watch for abnormal bruising. | iStock.com/DragonImages

If you have a dark bruise, including under your fingernails or toenails, this could be a sign of melanoma. Dark bruises are often not considered cancer, but if you have one that just won’t go away, it may be time to see your doctor.

6. Pain

woman massaging her painful neck

Pain on your skin could be a sign. | iStock.com/SIphotography

If you experience pain on your skin, and it is accompanied by an unknown lesion, bruise, or sore that won’t go away, check with your doctor to see if you are at risk. Not all skin cancer hurts to the touch, but oftentimes it brings on pain of some sort. WebMD says this is even more alarming if it’s accompanied by itching.

Prevent cancer by always applying sunscreen (even on cloudy days and in winter) and limit your time in the sun. If you notice any skin changes, make an appointment with your doctor. Be sure to learn about your family history and stick with regular self exams. A 10-minute skin cancer check may save your life. Lastly, forget about sitting in the sun to get a golden glow. Use self-tanners if you are really itching for some color, and load up on sunscreen when you’re outside.

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