Be Skin Aware - What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. However, if caught early, the disease has a 98% survival rate. In order to detect skin cancer at the earliest possible stage, it is crucial to know the signs and symptoms to look out for. This month, Check4Cancer is sharing a series of blogs exploring being skin aware. In this blog, we explain the key signs of skin cancer to be aware of.

Although different skin cancers can look very different and show different symptoms, early detection is vital, regardless of the type of skin cancer.  

Those most at risk of melanoma have fair skin, lots of moles and/or freckles or a family history of skin cancer. Regardless of your skin colour, it is important to remember everyone is at risk, especially if you spend time in the sun or use sunbeds.

A melanoma can grow anywhere on the body, so it’s important to check your entire body regularly (once per month) for any changes or abnormalities. For parts of your body that you can’t see, you can use a mirror, or ask a partner or friend to check for you. Being familiar with how your skin looks and feels is important so you can spot any changes early and easily.

Non-melanoma skin cancer – what to look out for

Non-melanoma skin cancer is most common on skin that has been exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. People often associate skin cancer with abnormal moles, but non-melanoma skin cancer can take several different forms. Signs to look out for include:

  • A white, red or pink lump
  • Discoloured patches on the skin
  • A scaly or crusty patch of skin
  • A sore or scab or ulcer that bleeds, hurts or itches
  • An ulcer that doesn’t heal

You should consult your GP immediately if you have developed any of the signs listed above, which haven’t healed within four weeks as they may indicate a melanoma.

Melanoma skin cancer - signs and mole checking

You may have some moles or dark patches on your skin that are flat or slightly raised. Usually, these will remain harmless all your life. However, moles or patches of normal skin that change in size, shape or colour over weeks or months in adult life should be further investigated.

There are some clear signs that a mole could be a melanoma. You should get your moles checked by your GP or a skin cancer specialist if you have a mole and notice any of the following skin changes:

  • Changing shape, particularly getting an irregular outline
  • Changing colour, getting darker, becoming patchy or multi-shaded
  • An existing mole getting bigger or a new mole growing quickly
  • If a mole starts to itch or become painful
  • If a mole is bleeding, becoming crusty and/or looks inflamed

The ABCDE Melanoma Rule for mole checking

Skin cancer specialists often use a checklist that outlines some of the signs of melanoma to look out for. The ABCDE Melanoma Rule is a guide to help you detect any moles on the skin that change in size, shape, colour, become itchy or start bleeding.

  • A – Asymmetry
    • Melanomas typically have an uneven shape such that half the mole doesn’t match the other
  • B – Border
    • The edges of the mole are irregular, blurred or jagged
  • C – Colour
    • The colour of the mole varies throughout and/or there appears to be no uniform pigmentation
  • D – Diameter
    • The diameter is greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil’s eraser)
  • E – Evolving
    • Changes in the size, shape or colour of the mole over weeks, months or years

The ABCDE Rule Skin Cancer PNG

These are some of the clear signs that a mole could be a melanoma. If you are concerned about any moles or lesions, then consult your GP or Check4Cancer immediately to get them checked out.

Read more about the symptoms of skin cancer or visit our skin cancer advice and awareness page for answers to common questions about skin cancer.