What do the Early Stages of Skin Cancer Look Like?

What do the Early Stages of Skin Cancer Look Like?

Skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK. There are other kinds of skin cancer, that are less common than melanoma. Each kind of skin cancer produces skin lesions, but can also spread to other parts of the body. It’s important to know what skin cancer lesions look like, so you can see a doctor quickly if you spot something that looks suspicious. One option is to visit a skin cancer clinic in London or elsewhere, to have the lesion inspected by an expert.

Kinds of Skin Cancer

The most common kinds of skin cancer are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Each kind of skin cancer causes distinctive-looking skin lesions.

Melanoma often develops in a mole. Very few moles actually become cancerous, but if a mole looks abnormal, there’s a higher risk it might become cancerous. Melanoma is the least common skin cancer, but it has the highest potential to spread to other parts of the body.

Normal moles are usually flat, with a somewhat regular shape, a smooth surface, and an even colour. If a mole is pre-cancerous, or cancerous, it often changes in size, shape, and colour. For instance, it may become larger or the surface might become raised. The outline of the mole may change and become irregular, the colour might change, and the surface might become rough.

The changes that can lead to melanoma can be remembered with the acronym ABCDE:

  • A is for asymmetry: normal moles are symmetrical. A mole that isn’t symmetrical may be cancerous or pre-cancerous.
  • B is for border: if the edges of the mole are blurred, ragged, or irregular, it may be melanoma.
  • C is for colour: a normal mole is usually just one colour. A mole with multiple different shades, or one that gets darker, should be seen by a doctor.
  • D is for diameter: a mole that is bigger than the eraser on the end of a pencil might be cancerous.
  • E is for evolving: a mole that changes in any way, whether in size, shape, or colour, should be checked by a doctor. A mole should also be checked if it starts to bleed or itch.

Basal Cell Carcinoma can take several different forms. For instance, it might grow as a flat, scaly patch of skin, or as a waxy-looking bump that contains blood vessels.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma often starts as a sore that doesn’t heal. This kind of cancer is most likely to appear on parts of the body that are often exposed to the sun, such as the ears, forehead, lips, and hands. Squamous cell carcinoma may cause scaly-looking patches on the skin, that bleed or become crusty. It may also form a firm, red lump that may have scaly patches.

See Your GP or a Dermatologist If You Spot Any Changes

If you notice changes in your skin, such as the development of red scaly patches, changes in a mole, or you have a sore that doesn’t heal, make an appointment to see your GP so it can be evaluated. Or, visit a dermatology or skin cancer clinic in London for expert care and advice.