Since there are several types of skin cancer, each type will have their own set of symptoms. Usually, it's not possible for the average person to tell with certainty whether a mole or a growth on the skin represents skin cancer. Yet since this type of cancer is so potentially dangerous, any new growth of moles, or new growths on the skin ought to be evaluated by a physician.
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous cell, and malignant melanoma. These disorders do tend to occur in certain patterns and there are a few things to look for on moles you have, or if you notice a new mole. Most of us are born with some moles, so a good once over look every few months is an excellent idea. If necessary, have a parent, spouse, or a good friend help you examine moles you can’t see very well yourself.
For all forms of skin cancer, three symptoms should always warrant concern. These are:
- 1) Changes in an existing mole or growth
2) Emergence of a new mole or growth
3) Sores on the skin that won’t heal, especially if they are over an existing mole.
Each form of skin carcinoma tends to occur in specific locations on the body and has its own distinctive symptoms. For example, basal cell carcinoma tends to occur on the face, neck, upper chest and back. These are areas that often get a lot of sun exposure. It occurs less frequently on the arms, legs and hands.
Basal cell carcinomas may start as the growth of an existing mole or freckle that enlarges. They may also itch, and scrape easily, causing cuts in the mole that never heal. Sometimes they look like an unhealed pimple or sore, though they can also get very large.
Squamous cell carcinoma also occurs in most of the same places as basal cell. Unlike basal cell, squamous cell may occur on the hands or the arms. Existing moles or new growths may look red or pink and appear inflamed. They can also look like sores that won’t heal as they easily get scratched and form scabs over and over again.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer because it more easily metastasizes and can cause cancerous growths in the organs. Most melanomas are found in areas not that commonly exposed to the sun, like the mid-body and the legs. They often start from a mole that already exists.
Unlike the normal mole, melanomas are usually multi-colored, and their edges may not be even. The normal mole could, if taken off the skin, be symmetrically folded in half. A melanoma doesn’t exhibit this symmetry, but has ragged edges. Occasionally melanomas may also bleed.
Any of these symptoms may indicate carcinoma, although many growths on the skin may behave like skin cancer and still be perfectly harmless. Since you can’t tell the difference, it is always important to have irregular moles or new growths checked. It is far better to be safe than sorry, especially if you suspect melanoma.