Q: What does skin cancer look like?

A: Skin cancer can look like a shiny scar.

Q: What does skin cancer look like?

A: Sometimes cancer on skin looks like an open sore that bleeds, crusts over and doesn't heal properly.

Q: What does skin cancer look like?

A: Sometimes cancer appears as a reddish irritated spot usually on the shoulder, chest, arm or leg.

Q: What does skin cancer look like?

A: Skin cancer can look like a pink patch on your face, lips or ears.

Q: What does skin cancer look like?

A: Pre-cancerous cancer lesions often appear as red scaly spots on the face, neck or back of the hands.

Q: What does skin cancer look like?

A: Skin cancer can look like a small growth with and elevated border and an indented center. As it becomes larger, tiny blood vessels develop on the surface.

Q: What does skin cancer look like?

A: Sometimes skin cancer appears as a mole that appears after the age of forty as well as any moles that change shape or color, are multicolored, black, white or translucent, have a ridge around the edge, bleed, itch or are irritated by clothing.

Because skin cancer can appear in so many forms, it is not easy to self-diagnose. If you are "at risk", it is important to include a skin check in your annual medical examination or ask for a referral to a dermatologist.

How do I know if I am at risk of getting skin cancer?
  1. Overexposure to the sun causes 90% of most forms of skin cancer. Ultraviolet rays disrupt the genetic material in the skin cells causing tissue damage.
  2. People who have had severe or blistering sunburns in childhood are twice as likely to develop skin cancer later in life.
  3. Those with blond or red hair, fair skin and blue or green eyes are most at risk because they have less protective pigment in their skin.
  4. Certain medications make the skin more susceptible to sun damage. These include antibiotics, antidepressants, diuretics, antihistamines, sedatives, estrogen and skin ointments such as retinoic acid.
  5. Well-educated, white-collar men have the highest risk of developing melanoma. Researchers surmise that many months of very little sun exposure followed by short periods of over-exposure and sunburn may be responsible.

In other words, fair-skinned people who had severe or frequent sunburns as children and who continue to spend significant periods of time outdoors, without sun protection, are most at risk of experiencing skin cancer. Because the average person incurs between 50 and 80 percent of all sun exposure prior to the age of eighteen, the childhood years have a major influence on the probability of developing skin cancer later in life.

What can I do to minimize the risk of skin cancer?
  1. If you have a family history of skin cancer, avoid the sun as much as possible and wear a sun block every day. Keep a close watch on moles and skin lesions and have them checked regularly by a physician.
  2. Avoid tanning salons.
  3. Stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
  4. When outdoors, wear light-colored tightly woven clothing, a hat and sunglasses that block ultra-violet rays.
  5. Always wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, even on cloudy days and re-apply it every 3 hours.
  6. Protect your lips with a lip balm with an SPF of 15.
  7. Eat a diet low in fat and high in antioxidants.
  8. Invest in clothing which carries a SPF rating of 30 if you are going to be in the sun for long periods of time (gardening, golfing, fishing, boating, hiking, skiing etc).

What happens if I do develop skin cancer?

Fortunately skin cancer is quite curable when treated early. More than 90 percent of skin cancers are completely cured. Prescription medication containing Retin-A may be able to reverse precancerous sun damage.
Medical treatment for skin cancer often involves surgery. An excisional biopsy (removal of the growth for analysis) cures skin cancer in its early stages in 95 percent of cases. Other treatments include:

  • The use of liquid nitrogen which freezes and kills diseased tissue
  • Electrosurgery
  • Laser surgery
  • Radiation therapy

Your physician or doctor will advise you of the method most appropriate given your particular situation.

If you have any more questions about what skin cancer looks like, please ask your doctor for a professional opinion.

Medical Disclaimer: This web site does not provide medical advice. The entire contents of this site are intended for informational and educational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you've read on this website.