Skin cancer signs & symptoms

Skin cancer signs

Skin cancers can look very different.

Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that's exposed to the sun.

To spot skin cancers early check your skin regularly. It helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you'll notice any changes more easily.

The British Association of Dermatologists recommend checking monthly if you can. To thoroughly look at all your skin start from your head and finish at your toes.

To check areas you can’t see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a trusted friend to check. This is very important if you're regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.

When checking make sure the room is lit well and that you're warm enough as you'll need to remove your clothes.

Also, have a camera and ruler or tape measure to hand. You can then take a picture of anything that doesn't look quite right. If you can it's a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to it when you take the photo. This can give you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it's changing.

Skin cancer symptoms

Symptoms can vary and some of the symptoms are similar to other conditions.

Always see an expert if you have or are worried about any symptoms or areas of skin.

Symptoms can include:

An odd mole

A mole which looks odd or different from your other moles can be a symptom of skin cancer and needs checked out by an expert.

A spot or sore

You need to get a spot or sore checked out that:

  • is new, doesn't go away or looks unusual

  • doesn’t heal within 4 weeks

  • hurts, is itchy, crusty, scabs over or bleeds for more than 4 weeks

The colour of the spot or sore can look see through, shiny and pink or pearly white. They can also look red. Some may have dark brown or black areas but this isn't always the case.

The spot or sore can feel sore, rough and have raised edges.


Look out for an area of skin that's broken down (an ulcer) and doesn't heal within 4 weeks, and you can't think of a reason for this change.

A lump

This might be small, slow growing, shiny and pink or red.

Red patches on your skin

These red patches could also be itchy. This could be due to other non cancerous skin conditions. But get it checked to make sure.

Web content: Cancer Research UK, Accessed Oct 2019.

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