What are skin cancer signs and symptoms?

A sign is something that can be noticed. In skin cancer, a sign is any noticeable changes to skin. Skin cancer may present as an abnormal lesion or bump or as a mole that has changed appearance.

A symptom, or something you feel, may include tenderness, itchiness, soreness or bleeding around the abnormal lesion, bump or mole.

How does skin cancer produce signs and symptoms?

In skin cancer, the cells’ DNA is damaged which causes them to mutate and reproduce abnormally. The cells then form a mass of cancer cells that presents as an abnormal bump, lesion or mole.

As the skin cancer spreads along the nerves, it can produce itching, pain and numbness.

Exposure to UV radiation from the sun and from tanning beds is just one factor that can damage cells’ DNA and lead to skin cancer. The damage to the cells’ DNA can occur several years before the cancer develops.

Being exposed to certain toxic chemicals and having a weakened immune system are additional factors which can contribute to the development of skin cancer.

Staging describes where the lung cancer is located, if it has spread and whether the tumour is affecting other parts of the body. Stage 0 means there are cancer cells present, yet they haven’t spread or grown into surrounding cells. Stage 1 means the cancer is 2cm or less and has one or no high risk features (such as thickness, spread and size). Stage 2 means the cancer is 2cm or more and has 2 or more high risk features. Stages 3-4 mean the cancer has spread to a lymph node or other internal organs and is advanced.

What are the common general signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

It is important to note that many skin cancer signs and symptoms are also associated with other diseases and conditions and may not necessarily indicate skin cancer.

The signs and symptoms of skin cancer differ slightly depending on the type of skin cancer.

A basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma may initially present as a bump or a rough patch on the skin. However, the basal cell carcinoma will have a smooth, waxy appearance. It may even be translucent enough to see blood vessels in the middle, and it may be indented in the middle. A squamous cell carcinoma, on the other hand, will either remain as a reddish, scaly patch or will develop into a rough nodule.

Melanomas can also appear as lumps or moles on the skin. Not all moles are cancerous. In fact, most moles are harmless, and some will eventually fade away. However, some moles can become cancerous.  Melanomas or cancerous moles are distinguished by irregular borders and an asymmetrical appearance. They may be more than one color and are typically larger than 6mm in diameter.

Changes in appearance of skin, existing moles or the growth of new moles should be discussed with the doctor.