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Wart or mole changes: When is it a Sign of Skin Cancer?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Mar 15, 2021

Wart or mole changes: When is it a Sign of Skin Cancer?

Research has found that an obvious change a wart or mole could indicate cancer.

The skin is the body’s largest organ.  It plays a vital role in the body’s protection against infection, mechanical damage, and high temperatures. However, because of its function as the body’s protective barrier, it can also be vulnerable to diseases and conditions such as skin cancer.

Skin cancer has become more prevalent in recent years due to the current situation of the earth’s ozone layer. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 2 to 3 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year. 

Learn more about skin cancer, and what are the particular signs or changes in the skin to look out for that may be a cause for concern.

Skin Cancer: The Basics

Skin cancer occurs due to mutations that result in malfunction and uncontrolled reproduction of cells in the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin).

Although skin cancer can be attributed to the harmful ultraviolet rays that come from the sun or artificial light, scientists are still unsure as to why skin cancer can develop in areas of the skin which are not exposed to harmful light rays. 

Skin cancer can occur in the different cells located in the epidermis, namely:

  • Squamous cells: These are cells that are found on the surface of the skin, and can also be found in the lining of hollow organs and along the respiratory and digestive tracts. Squamous cells are usually flat and appear like fish scales. 
  • Basal Cells: Basal cells are located underneath squamous cells, and are responsible for producing new skin cells. 
  • Melanocytes: Melanocytes can be found in the skin, as well as the eyes. These cells create melanin, which is what gives the human eyes, hair, and skin their unique color. Melanin also protects the skin from the sun. The more sun the skin is exposed to, the more melanin it produces.

A Sore that doesn’t Heal – Is it a Sign of Cancer?

Types of Skin Cancer and Their Symptoms

Skin cancer can develop on any part of the skin, but will typically start in areas that are most exposed to the sun such as the arms, hands, legs, chest, ears, neck, lips, face, and even the scalp.

Risk factors such as having many moles, or having skin on the fairer side can increase a person’s chances of skin cancer.

However, sun exposure isn’t the only reason why skin cancer develops. In some cases, especially for those who have a darker skin tone, skin cancer can develop in places that aren’t really exposed to the sun. 

The following are the types of skin cancer and the symptoms that one should look out for.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

The most common type of skin cancer is Basal Cell Carcinoma. This type of skin cancer occurs due to long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

BCC usually occurs on the parts of the body which get the most sunlight exposure such as the neck, arms, or head. Basal Cell Carcinoma that is detected early can be easily treated before it can cause any serious damage to the area where the cancer developed. 

Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma include:

  • An open sore that can appear to heal for a while and then come back after a few weeks. The sore may bleed or ooze, and persist for weeks at a time.
  • A pearly or shiny bump or nodule that can be pink, white, or red for fair-skinned people and tan or brown for those with darker skin.
  • A spot on the skin that can appear like a scar which can be yellow, white, or flesh-toned. 
  • A patch of skin that appears to be sore or irritated that may cause itching, crusting, or have no sensation at all. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma is skin cancer in the squamous cells located in the outermost layer of the skin or the epidermis. It is usually caused by the damage resulting from long-time exposure to UV light, either from a natural or an artificial source. SCC can develop in areas which are most exposed to the sun such as the scalp, ears, head, neck, or the hands.

If left untreated, the SCC can cause damage to the deeper layers of the skin which can result in disfigurement. The cancer can also travel to the other parts of the body through a process called metastasis. 

Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma include:

  • Patches of the skin that can feel scaly which crusts and bleeds over and over without properly healing.
  • A bump on the skin that appears red and firm.
  • A growth that appears elevated or raised from the skin that can bleed and may increase in size.
  • A growth that can be similar to a wart that can crust and bleed.


Melanoma is referred to as the deadliest form of skin cancer because of its tendency to spread to other organs in the body. This form of skin cancer can form on any part of the body, even on the surfaces of the skin that have not been exposed to the sun such as underneath the nails or the trunk. 

The American Cancer Society recommends the “ABCDE rule” in spotting the early signs of a melanoma. The steps in the ABCDE rule are as follows:

    • Asymmetry: One sign of a melanoma can be a mole or a birthmark that has an area that doesn’t match the rest of the mole or birthmark’s appearance.
    • Border: The edges of a mole seem to look like they’re ragged or irregular, when they’re supposed to be smooth or uniform all throughout.
    • Color: A spot or patch of skin that appears to have discoloration or a variety in color, such as a brown spot appearing to have splashes of pink, red, white, or blue in it.
    • Diameter: Spots or moles that are bigger than ¼ inches in diameter, or the size of a pencil eraser.
    • Evolving: Obvious changes in a wart or mole where there is a noticeable change in its color, shape, or size can be an early warning sign for melanoma.

It’s important to take note that a single symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that you have skin cancer. If you’re concerned about any visible changes in your skin, contact your general practitioner or doctor so that you can get screened as soon as possible. Most skin cancers that are detected early can be treated and cured.

Key Takeaways

Skin cancer is a cancer that develops in the cells located in the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin. This type of cancer has numerous types with specific symptoms to look out for.

In general, any sudden and obvious change in a wart or mole and other areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun may be an indication of skin cancer. So it’s best to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Learn more about cancer signs and symptoms, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Mar 15, 2021

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