Skin Cancer Warning Signs 

Skin cancer warning signs or skin cancer symptoms are very specific. Any presence of the signs of skin cancer should be taken seriously. Skin cancer symptoms differ depending on the type of skin cancer present. The three types of skin cancer are: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is the first of the three types of skin cancer and is characterized by the presence of a skin sore or pimple on the skin that does not seem to heal. The growth is slow and often described as a pinkish or red, pearly or waxy bump with a depressed center. This skin imperfection may occasionally leak yellowish fluid or blood and eventually form a scab. The scab then falls off, more fluid leaks out, and another scab forms. This cycle continuously repeats. Small blood vessels may be apparent inside of the skin growth.

There are specific target areas for these skin cancer warning signs. Areas exposed to the sun most often can develop basal cell carcinoma. In particular, the upper back and chest, head, face, ears, nose, lips, and neck, are all prime target skin areas for these skin cancer symptoms.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The second of the three types of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer warning signs for squamous cell carcinoma include growths that are flat and possibly inflamed skin patches or bumps that are pinkish or reddish in color. The growth is often scaly and might feel tender. Like basal cell carcinoma, leaking fluid and crusting cycling can occur and the sore never really heals. The skin growth may develop to be quite large if left untreated.

Target skin areas for these signs of skin cancer are the legs, top of arms and hands, in addition to the skin areas identified for basal cell carcinoma.

Malignant Melanoma Skin Cancer Warning Signs

The third of the three types of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. The cancer warning signs for malignant melanoma are described below.

The signs of skin cancer are focussed on pre-existing skin moles or skin freckles. When these freckles or moles start to become multi-coloured, in particular different shades of black or brown, then it should be noted that something abnormal might be occurring with the skin. These skin areas may also have areas of red, blue, or even white associated with them. Normal moles or freckles are usually a solid shade of brown, with no multi-coloring.

The borders of normal moles or freckles are often sharp or well defined. When skin cancer starts to become present, the borders become irregular and much less defined and the mole becomes larger. Some itching or bleeding from the mole or freckle may occur.

The other skin cancer sign to be aware of is the appearance of moles where none existed before and the moles possess the skin cancer characteristics described on this page.

In summary, the main skin cancer signs for malignant melanoma are:

  • a property known as asymmetry or in other words one side of the mole has a different shape than the other side; generally moles on the skin are symmetrical
  • the mole no longer has regular smooth borders or edges but rather the edges are ragged in nature
  • uneven coloring or combination of coloring of the mole as described above
  • the diameter of the affected skin area is greater than one quarter of an inch or approximately 5 to 6 mm

These skin cancer symptoms are more likely to be found on the trunk of the body or the legs as compared to the other types of skin cancer. These are the skin areas that only receive periodic sun exposure, but usually burn when they do.


Whenever the skin cancer warning signs outlined on this page are noticed it is a good idea to visit a physician or dermatologist. It may not be one of the 3 types of skin cancer in the end, but the only true method to be sure is with a proper diagnosis by a qualified medical professional. Avoid delays in going to see a physician. Early diagnosis translates to treatments that have a greater rate of success. Do not ignore the skin cancer warning signs.

How to Prevent Skin Cancer

woman applying suntan lotion on her skin as a skin cancer prevention method

Now that you know the skin cancer warning signs, it is necessary to talk about how to prevent skin cancer. The often used saying that prevention is the best cure holds true for skin cancer as it does for other skin and health problems. Fortunately, skin cancer prevention is a well understood area.

By far the best skin cancer prevention technique is to avoid or limit exposure to the sun. This also applies to the use of tanning beds or tanning booths or sun lamps. Most harm to the skin occurs during the midday hours or from 10:00am to 4:00pm and therefore it is best to stay out of the sun during this time. However, this is not always practical for many individuals and therefore when outside during these hours one should where a hat, appropriate sun glasses, stay in shaded areas, and wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. If the skin is directly exposed to the sun, either due to wearing a swimsuit or regular summer clothing, then a sunscreen should be used. Recommendations for the minimum SPF factor to use vary, but ensure that the sunscreen is at least SPF 15 or higher. To be safe, go for SPF 30. Be sure to reapply often, especially if sweating a lot or swimming. Ensure that the sunscreen has not expired. If in doubt, purchase a new batch to ensure maximum protection is provided. Use of expired products can lead to serious sunburns and long term negative skin effects.

The above recommendations address the how to prevent skin cancer question. Other things to keep in mind when thinking about preventing skin cancer is that some individuals need to take more precautions than others. For example, fair skinned individuals, individuals with a lot of moles, people with weakened immune systems, and individuals with a family history of skin cancer problems need to take extra care and need to be more diligent in knowing how to prevent skin cancer.

Keeping your immune system healthy by eating properly and consuming lots of antioxidant rich foods, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and getting proper rest, are all factors that contribute to preventing skin cancer.

Finally, skin cancer prevention extends to early detection. Successful early detection can prevent skin cancer from becoming worse and it greatly increases the odds of a successful treatment and excellent 5 year survival rate.

Other skin cancer related resources:

the five signs | skin cancer warning signs | statistics

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