Skin Cancer: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 4/11/2018

The term skin cancer refers to a group of different malignancies that originate in cells of the skin. Skin cancers are generally thought of as melanoma skin cancers or nonmelanoma skin cancers, which include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma in addition to less common types of tumors like Merkel cell tumors, hair and sweat gland tumors, or lymphomas of the skin. Signs of skin cancers include changes in the appearance of a mole or spot on the skin or the emergence of a new spot or lump on the skin. Skin cancers may also cause signs and symptoms such as

  • ulceration,
  • itching,
  • swelling,
  • scaling, or
  • bleeding of the skin, as well as other changes.

Causes of skin cancer

Skin cancers are believed to arise when exposure to ultraviolet light or radiation causes changes in the cells' DNA. Certain risk factors increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet light from sun exposure or tanning beds is a known risk factor. Other factors that increase your likelihood of developing skin cancer include exposure to radiation, including X-rays, and a weakened immune system.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2018

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