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What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

Most basal cell carcinomas have few if any symptoms. Squamous cell carcinomas may be painful. Both forms of skin cancer may appear as a sore that bleeds, oozes, crusts, or otherwise will not heal. They begin as a slowly growing bump on the skin that may bleed after minor trauma. Both kinds of skin cancers may have raised edges and a central ulceration.

Signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinomas include:

  • Appearance of a shiny pink, red, pearly, or translucent bump
  • Pink skin growths or lesions with raised borders that are crusted in the center
  • Raised reddish patch of skin that may crust or itch, but is usually not painful
  • A white, yellow, or waxy area with a poorly defined border that may resemble a scar

Signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinomas include:

  • Persistent, scaly red patches with irregular borders that may bleed easily
  • Open sore that does not go away for weeks
  • A raised growth with a rough surface that is indented in the middle
  • A wart-like growth

Actinic keratoses (AK), also called solar keratoses, are scaly, crusty lesions caused by damage from ultraviolet light, often in the facial area, scalp, and backs of the hands. These are considered precancers because if untreated, up to 10% of actinic keratoses may develop into squamous cell carcinomas.

Return to Skin Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: ed, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: March 18

I have a skin cancer sore that will not heal. It is eating away at the edges of the sore. This has been going on for 11 months. Dermatologist is not too concerned.

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Comment from: Jo, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: September 15

I am now almost 60. I was a sun lover as a child and taking my kids all of their weekends to softball tournaments. At 45 I was diagnosed with acral lentinginous melanoma, a malignant skin cancer found under my thumb nail. The only cure was to amputate at the knuckle. It is a very dangerous melanoma as it is often overlooked by the lay person as it can start out looking like a nail fungus. I was very fortunate as I had mine for over a year before it was diagnosed. It is no longer considered to be a result of sun exposure, however, there was not much known about it in 1999. It is still though a malignant cancer. Do not wait to see a dermatologist if you see a nail bruise and you don't remember causing the injury or if your nail splits with brown spots on your finger or toe pad.

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Comment from: Delores, 75 or over Male (Caregiver) Published: March 24

My husband passed away in December from Merkel cell skin cancer. He had surgery two times but the second time it spread quickly. He lived two years after thinking he had a fever blister on his lip.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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