How to Recognize The Early Signs of Skin Cancer

Learn to identify the early signs of skin cancer.

How to Recognize The Early Signs of Skin Cancer

by Laurie Wertich; Medically reviewed by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. 9/20/2018

Any changes to your skin should be discussed promptly with your healthcare provider. In particular, the following lists of abnormalities may be signs of non-melanoma skin cancer or melanoma.

Signs of Non-melanoma Skin Cancer

  • A sore that does not heal.
  • Areas of the skin that are:
    • Small, raised, smooth, shiny, and waxy.
    • Small, raised, and red or reddish-brown.
    • Flat, rough, red or brown, and scaly.
    • Scaly, bleeding, or crusty.
    • Similar to a scar and firm.

Signs of Melanoma Skin Cancer

  • Change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole.
  • A black or blue-black area.
  • A new mole that may be black, abnormal, or “ugly looking.”
  • In particular, watch closely for these characteristics in new and existing moles:
    • Border—edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
    • Color—color is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.
    • Diameter—is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil (1/4 inch or 5 millimeters).


National Cancer Institute. Skin Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. Available at:

National Cancer Institute. What You Need to Know About™ Melanoma. Available at: