What can skin cancer look like?

Did you know some skin cancers – including potentially deadly melanomas – can be invisible to the naked eye? 

It is normal for moles to emerge in childhood and adolescence, change in size and colour as we grow, and fade as we get older. New moles may appear during pregnancy. Moles can lighten or darken in colour, become raised, or even disappear altogether! These changes can be due to environmental factors, like UV radiation from the sun, medications, or genetics.

However, certain changes can be concerning, such as changes in shape, symmetry, or colour. If you notice moles that are bleeding, itching, flaking, or crusting it could be sign that something isn’t right, and you should see a doctor.

Can skin cancer look like a blood blister?

Sometimes skin cancers can resemble other lesions such as blood blisters, skin tags or sun spots.

Skin cancer comes in many shapes, sizes and colours

Skin cancer can affect anyone, occur anywhere on the body and can look like anything. It may be raised or flat, bumpy or smooth, itchy or painless, white or pink, brown or black, large or small – or even completely invisible to the naked eye! That’s why regular skin checks with trained professionals in skin cancer detection are so important. 

Did you know?
Melanoma can grow very fast and
sometimes show no signs until an advanced stage.

Do you know your risk of skin cancer?

Don’t underestimate your skin cancer risk! You are at especially high risk if you are over 55, have light hair or light-coloured eyes, have a fair complexion, have a family or personal history of skin cancer, work outdoors or enjoy outdoor activities, or have ever been sunburnt or used a tanning bed.

Can skin cancer be colourless?

Skin cancer can be any colour including skin coloured. Typically, melanoma is pigmented (black, brown or grey); however, it may be colourless, pink, red or white. Most non-melanoma skin cancers are not coloured and appear pink, red, white or skin coloured. Skin cancer has many different appearances but the most important thing to remember is that anything new, growing or changing is suspicious and should be checked.

What changes to look for

Keep an eye out for one or more ABC signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: The two halves don’t match
  • Border: The edges are notched or uneven
  • Colour: There are multiple colours
  • Diameter: The lesion is larger than a pencil eraser
  • Evolving: The lesion is changing
  • Firm: It feels hard to the touch
  • Growing: It has recently gotten bigger

Can warts and freckles become cancerous?

Warts are caused by human papillomavirus and are not associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. Show a wart to your doctor if it worries you. Most brown spots on sun-exposed areas are freckles and solar lentigines; they are proof that your skin has been exposed to sun. These lesions have the same chance of turning into skin cancer as any other cell on your skin. However, an unaided eye may not differentiate freckles and solar lentigines from melanoma (which also presents as a spot). It is best to show your doctor anything you think is a freckle.

Can you spot the melanomas?

Potentially deadly melanomas don’t always look how you might expect! Sometimes they are hard (or even impossible) to see without the use of a dermatoscope: a special tool which allows your doctor to identify skin changes at an early stage – which could save your life.

My freckle has changed colour. Should I be worried?

It is important to get your skin checked if you’ve noticed changes in your moles, such as a change in colour, as it could be a sign of skin cancer. Changing moles can be a concern depending on your age, how long the mole has been present for, what colour it is, if it’s flat or raised, and how quickly it has changed. Some other changes to look out for include new moles, moles that are getting larger/raised, rough/scaly, bleeding, or not healing.

Types of skin cancer

Patient Brochure__Bayside__PRINT (3)_page2_image19 Seborrhoeic Keratosis 
Harmless wart-like spots usually developing by the age of 60.
Patient Brochure__Bayside__PRINT (3)_page2_image17 Basal Cell Carcinoma 
Most common but least dangerous form of skin cancer. 
Patient Brochure__Bayside__PRINT (3)_page2_image20 Dysplastic Naevi 
Benign moles which might indicate greater melanoma risk. 
Patient Brochure__Bayside__PRINT (3)_page2_image18 Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
A more serious form of skin cancer often on sun-exposed areas.
Patient Brochure__Bayside__PRINT (3)_page2_image15 Solar Keratosis 
Sun damage indicating increased skin cancer risk.
Patient Brochure__Bayside__PRINT (3)_page2_image16 Melanoma 
The most dangerous form of skin cancer which must be treated urgently. 

Can skin cancer be itchy or painful?

Occasionally, skin cancer can be painful or itchy due to an inflammatory response or trauma. Uncommonly, skin cancer can involve nerves which may account for the pain. Any irritable bump, spot or dry patch should be looked at by a doctor. However, most skin cancers have no symptoms and you don’t feel anything when they arise, which is why it’s so important to get regular skin checks to detect malignancies early!

If you are in any doubt about a spot on your skin – even if you’re not yet due for your regular skin check – please reach out to our friendly team for a comprehensive skin exam today. It could save your life.

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