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: