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How to Spot Skin Cancer and Prevention of Skin Cancer

By Dr. Devavrat Arya in Cancer Care / Oncology

May 02 , 2022 | 4 min read


Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. There are various types of skin cancers, but squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the three most common types. Signs of skin cancer are evident in the early stage itself. So recognizing those warning signs can improve your prognosis because the lesions are small and restricted to a localized area in their initial stages. So let's read how to spot skin cancer. 


Melanoma is known to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer because it spreads rapidly and is the most invasive of all the cancer types. 

Symptoms of Melanoma

In melanoma, there are changes in the appearance of moles. A normal mole is a skin growth with brown, tan or black colour. In melanoma, there are certain changes in a mole which you can remember as ABCDE guidelines-

  1. Asymmetry- Unlike the normal moles, which are round or oval-shaped and symmetrical, in melanoma, there is an asymmetry in the shape of the mole, which means if you draw an imaginary line in the middle of the mole, you will find that the shapes of two halves are different.
  2. Border- The border is uneven.
  3. Color- The colour of moles are different and vary from shades of brown to black. But in the case of amelanotic melanomas, moles are colourless. 
  4. Diameter- A mole of diameter 6 mm or ¼ inches is a warning sign of melanoma. 
  5. Evolving- Any change in shape, colour, or colour of the mole may indicate skin cancer. 

Recently the cancer council has added EFG criteria as well. The moles in melanoma show the following three features- 

  1. Elevated

  2. Firm to touch

  3. Grows rapidly

Apart from ABCDE guidelines, you should check for ugly duckling signs to spot melanoma. 

  1. Ugly Duckling Sign- It means you will find one mole to be an odd one out (the ugly duck) of the surrounding moles. That mole looks different from the rest of the moles in the vicinity. It can be lighter in colour than the surrounding moles or darker in colour than the other moles. 

If you find any symptoms - ABCDE or EFG, or ugly duckling sign, you should consult your doctor for a check-up. 

Now let's talk about skin cancers other than melanomas, i.e. non, melanoma cancer.

Non-Melanoma Cancer

Non-melanoma cancers are a group of skin cancers that are not melanomas. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are two common types of carcinoma included in non-melanoma cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma accounts for 80% of skin cancer cases, but with early detection, it can be treated completely because the rate of spread is slow. It occurs most commonly in parts of the skin exposed to the sun. 

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer but is curable if detected early. 

Symptoms of Non-Melanoma Cancer

Here are some of the signs that you should look for to spot non-melanoma.

  1. A non-healing sore that may ooze or bleed.

  2. A reddish patch that can cause itching, bleeding or even no discomfort.

  3. A shiny nodule can be mistaken for a pimple or mole. In whites, it can appear as a pearly white or pink bump, whereas in brown and dark-skinned people, it can appear brown or black. 

  4. A waxy, yellow or white scar-like area that has poorly defined margins.

Self Examination to Spot Skin Cancer

Early detection is the key to prompt skin cancer treatment, so you should not ignore any changes in your skin and should do a self-examination monthly. You just need a standing mirror and a hand mirror for this. You must be wondering how to do a self-examination to detect skin cancer. So here are the steps of self-examination-

  1. Stand in front of the mirror and scan the front and backside of your body grossly. 

  2. Raise your arms and scan the left and right sides of your body.

  3. Bend your elbow and check for any anomaly in the forearm, elbow and palms.  

  4. Sit on a chair and keep one leg over the other. Check your legs, sole and space between the toes.

  5. Use a hand mirror to check the back, scalp, neck and buttock.

You can prevent most skin cancers by taking simple measures. Let's take a quick look at the tips for preventing skin cancer.

Prevention of Skin Cancer

  1. Avoid sun rays between 10 am to 4 pm as the sun rays are strongest during this duration.

  2. Try using sunscreen in all seasons and not just in summers. Though sunscreen cannot filter all the UV rays, it still offers protection against certain radiations. Moreover, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for better protection and reapply every 2 hours.

  3. Wear a full-sleeved shirt and clothing that cover your legs. Also, wear a broad-brimmed hat while going out.

  4. Wear good quality sunglasses that can block UVA and UVB rays.

  5. There are certain medications that can make your skin more sensitive to sun rays, such as over the counter medications and antibiotics, so make sure you take extra precautions and avoid exposing your body to sun rays when you are on these medications. 

  6. Avoid using tanning beds, sun lamps, or tanning salons.

  7. You should do a self-examination and consult a dermatologist in case of any anomaly.

Skin cancer is treatable if detected in the early stages. So if you find unusual changes in your skin, you should contact your doctor at the earliest. It is worth mentioning that not all skin changes are cancers. But consulting a doctor can save you from delaying any skin changes that apparently could be skin cancer. So book an appointment with our top dermatologists Now.