6 Signs You Should See a Doctor About Possible Skin Cancer

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Worried about a suspicious-looking spot or mole on the skin? Wondering that it could be skin cancer? It's a reasonable concern to have, since skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the U.S.

Most skin cancers are easily treatable if caught early. This includes melanomas, which are the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

Here's what to look out for:

  • A mole that changes in shape, color, or size. Melanomas in particular can develop in preexisting moles, or they may appear as a new mole that's changing.

  • A mole or other raised skin nodule that starts itching, bleeding, or crusting over. Bleeding and/or crusting can be the sign of a squamous cell carcinoma, a basal cell carcinoma, or sometimes even a melanoma.

  • Any skin nodule or raised irregular area that seems to be growing. A growing skin abnormality should be looked into. Note that many skin problems other than skin cancer can cause this sign.

  • New bleeding or inflammation in an old scar. Chronically inflamed skin such as that found in some scars, burns, or chronic wounds can become cancerous (usually squamous cell carcinoma).

  • A leg wound or other skin wound that won't heal. A leg ulcer or other skin wound that won't heal may be a sign of skin cancer.

  • An "ugly duckling" mole. Especially in people who are prone to have many moles, an "ugly duckling" mole is one that doesn't look like the person's usual moles. Research has shown that these "ugly duckling" moles are particularly worrisome for melanoma.

Dr. Leslie Kernisan

Leslie Kernisan is a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics, and maintains a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging. See full bio