What Are the Signs of Skin Cancer?

May 05, 2023
What Are the Signs of Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer affects millions yearly, yet many don’t recognize the common signs that can lead to a quick diagnosis. In this post, learn what to look for and why regular skin exams are crucial for your health.

Skin cancer is the most common type in the United States, with millions of these cancers diagnosed annually. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 20% of Americans will have some form of skin cancer by the time they reach age 70.

Like other cancers, skin cancer responds best to treatment when it’s caught early. The best ways to do that are to know the signs of skin cancer and to have regular skin cancer evaluations.

At Southwest Michigan Dermatology in Portage, Michigan, our team offers comprehensive skin evaluations aimed at identifying the earliest signs of skin cancer and education that helps our patients be more vigilant, too. In this post, learn what key signs you should be looking for.

Skin cancer: Signs to look for

Most commonly associated with overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, skin cancer affects your skin differently, targeting three primary types of cells found in your epidermis, the upper layer of skin. These cells include:

  • Squamous cells found in the uppermost layer of the epidermis
  • Basal cells located below the squamous cells
  • Melanocytes found in the lowest layer of the epidermis

The two most common types of skin cancer are basal and squamous cell carcinoma, affecting the basal and squamous cells, respectively. These two types are typically treatable but must be caught early to avoid scarring and other complications.

Melanoma affects your melanocytes, the cells that give your skin its color. Melanoma is the rarest type of skin cancer.

Each type of skin cancer can cause different symptoms, and often, those symptoms are very subtle. Regular skin cancer screenings are important for spotting these cancers in their earliest and most treatable stages. At home, you should look for signs like:

  • Red bumps or lumps that don’t go away
  • Raised tan or flesh-colored lesions
  • Non-healing sore that bleeds or forms a crust
  • A rough spot you can feel
  • Spots that are sore or itchy

Not every skin lesion is caused by cancer, but because skin cancer can have devastating consequences, it’s essential not to ignore any changes you see.


In addition to the signs on that list, melanoma causes other changes you should know about. Specifically, melanoma lesions may look similar to a mole or change how an existing mole looks. To spot these changes, the ABCDE rule can be helpful. 

  • Asymmetrical: Is the mole irregularly shaped?
  • Border: Is the mole’s edge irregular or jagged?
  • Color: Is the mole an unusual color or multiple colors?
  • Diameter: Is the mole larger than the head of an eraser?
  • Evolving: Has the mole changed in appearance?

If you have any of the skin cancer warning signs on either of these lists, call the office immediately to schedule an evaluation.

Treating skin cancer

Our team offers several treatment options for skin cancer, selecting the best option for your skin type, where it’s located, and other factors. For basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, we may recommend the following:

  • Excision or shaving away the growth
  • Freezing and curettage
  • Electrodesiccation
  • Mohs Micrographic Surgery
  • Image-Guided Superficial Radiotherapy (IG-SRT), a low-dose form of radiation therapy

Don’t leave your health to chance

Regular skin cancer screenings are essential for identifying skin cancer early so it can be treated. To schedule your exam or to have an unusual skin lesion evaluated, call 269-321-7546 or book an appointment online at Southwest Michigan Dermatology today.