How To Recognize Skin Cancer

November 9, 2012

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, early detection and treatment of skin cancer will almost always prevent skin cancer from becoming untreatable.


The first and best way to recognize skin cancer is to perform routine self-exams. Even if you have been vigilant about wearing sunscreen, wearing hats and other protective gear and avoiding dangerous sun exposure, it is still important to watch yourself carefully for signs of skin cancer. The Foundation recommends that you do an exam every month. Not only will this help you become more familiar with the normal colorations on your body, but it will ensure that you are able to promptly recognize the signs of cancer. You should conduct these exams from head to toe. With practice you’ll find that you will get faster at completing the self-exam.

Recognizing Skin Cancers

There are generally five steps to recognizing melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer.The Skin Cancer Foundation teaches these as the ABCDEs.


An asymmetrical mole will not have the same outline on one half as it does on the other half. School children are taught to recognize symmetry by drawing a straight line through a shape in order to determine if one side matches the other. You can do the same thing by mentally drawing a line through the mole and determining symmetry or asymmetry.

Borders: Even or Uneven

Early melanoma usually shows up in moles or as lesions that have scalloped, jagged, or notched borders instead of the smooth borders that most moles have.


A variety of colors is an indication of possible melanoma. There may be browns, blacks, reds or blues. Sometimes there are even other colors.


The size of melanoma is usually bigger than the tip of a pencil eraser. However, if you catch the melanoma in the very first stages, it can also be much smaller.


This means that you have noticed some type of change in the size, shape, color, or raised attributes of the moles or spots. Other changes may include bleeding, itching or crusting. Any changes are an indication of a serious situation.

There are other types of skin cancer to beware of:

  • Actinic Keratosis
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma
  • Dysplastic Nevi
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The warning signs for these types of cancer are similar to those for melanoma. Once again you will look for changes in the appearance of a mole or other brown spot; bleeding, itching or scabbing; and sores that don’t heal within a reasonable amount of time.

How to Respond

There are successful courses of treatment for skin cancer which has been caught early enough. In order to receive this life-saving treatment, however, you need to act right away when you’ve found one of these signs of cancer. For more information on performing self-exams and your treatment options, contact Dr. Gross.

Do you know what your skin type is? What have you found to effectively protect yourself from skin cancer?