What are your concerns?

Hard to understand

Or copy link


Unusual Spots, Bumps, and Moles: Watch Out For Signs of Skin Cancer

Unusual Spots, Bumps, and Moles: Watch Out For Signs of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer usually develops as a result of abnormal growth of skin cells. Learn about the signs of skin cancer here.

Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation raises the risk of skin cancer on parts of the body that is exposed to the sun like face, ears, neck, lips, scalp, chest, hands, and legs. However, cancer can also develop on areas of the skin that is not directly exposed to the sun like below the toenails and fingernails, palms, soles, and genital area.

Skin cancer can be classified into three broad categories. These are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin cancers are usually asymptomatic. This implies that the signs of skin cancer do not often manifest through pain, discomfort, itching, or any other side effects. They are only visible, which often makes people overlook and ignore them as minor skin conditions.

Signs of Skin Cancer

The signs of skin cancer based on the types of skin cancer are as given below.

Signs of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, while squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common.

BCC usually develops in the areas that are exposed to harsh UV rays. BCC is not expected to metastasize and is extremely rare.

SCC also occurs in parts of the body that are exposed to sunlight like face, ears, and hands. However, individuals with darker skin tones are at a higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma on body parts that are not exposed to the sun often.

Both BCC and SCC can be cured through surgical intervention, provided the treatment is started at the right time. In rare cases, they can spread to other parts of the body.

Let’s take a look at the apparent signs of BCC and SCC:

Red, scaly skin: A red, itchy, scaly patch may become visible on the skin. This may get diagnosed as eczema. These symptoms are a warning sign of SCC when they persist despite liberal application of moisturizers.

Persistent bleeding: A tiny pimple may grow, bleed, scab, and then subside. This may recur several times and show the same symptoms of splitting open, bleeding, and subsiding again, until it develops into an ulcer. In most cases, this is a symptom of BCC, but may sometimes be a sign of SCC as well.

A shiny bump: When a regular mole grows to become a shiny bump that turns white, pink, or red, it may indicate skin cancer. Sometimes, it can also become brown or black.

Indented mole: A mole with an indented center and elevated boundaries may be another symptom of skin cancer. Sometimes, it can even be crusty.

A scar-like spot: A shiny scar that has not developed due to an injury is another warning sign of a harmful form of BCC. Such scar-like marks may be white or yellow in color.

Signs of skin cancer: Melanoma

Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer. The usual symptoms are pigmented skin, the growth of a new mole, or an old mole that suddenly changes appearance. This can grow anywhere in the body. Amongst men, this type of cancer often develops on the face or penis. Amongst women, it may develop on the lower legs. It can affect individuals across ages, genders, skin colors, and races. Amongst people of darker skin color, it may develop in the form of lesions under the fingernails or toenails, or on the palms or soles.

The American Academy of Dermatology recognizes the usual symptoms of melanoma through the acronym ABCDE, which are as below:

Asymmetry: The mole appears different on both halves, or it lacks symmetry.

Border/circumference: When the border of a normal mole suddenly starts appearing ragged or irregular, it may be a clear indication of skin cancer.

Color: Another symptom that should raise suspicion is when a mole is of three or four different colors rather than being of an uniform color.

Diameter: A mole bigger than 6 millimeters often has a greater risk of developing the symptoms of melanoma.

Evolution: It is important to be conscious about the changing appearance of an already existing mole. This means a change in shape, size, and color, and also unexplained bleeding. At times, a mole that has become cancerous may also start disappearing. The pace is usually very slow. Hence, it is essential for you to know your moles well, so that you can immediately notice if they start changing in appearance.

The symptoms of melanoma include:

  • A large brownish area with speckles of a darker color;
  • A lesion that itches, burns, and is painful;
  • A tiny lesion with an irregular circumference that appears white, pink, red, blue, or blue-black;
  • Discoloration or lumps in the lining of the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, vagina, or anus.

Lesser known skin cancers

Below are some types of less common skin cancers and their symptoms.

Kaposi sarcoma: This type of skin cancer occurs under the skin, manifesting itself in the form of red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes. Kaposi sarcoma occurs in individuals with medical conditions caused due to compromised immune systems. It also occurs due to surgery that has weakened the immune system. These conditions include AIDS, organ transplantation, etc. It is a rare skin cancer that is also comparatively more common amongst older Italian men. It is also common amongst young African men and people of Eastern European Jewish heritage.

Sebaceous gland carcinoma: This is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer that develops in the sebaceous glands, which are oil glands of the skin. These manifest as hard nodules that can develop in any area in the body. However, they mostly occur on the eyelid, in which case they are often misdiagnosed as minor conditions of the eyelids.

Merkel cell carcinoma: Merkel cell carcinoma are hard, shiny nodules that develop on the surface of the skin or just beneath it, and in hair follicles. It is most common in the skin of the neck and head.

Key takeaway

Skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. While skin cancers are usually asymptomatic, they may manifest as various skin conditions. Signs include red, scaly skin, pimples with persistent bleeding, and abnormal bumps, spots, or moles. Consult with your doctor if you find possible signs of skin cancer.

Learn more about Skin Cancer here.

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


Skin cancer https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/skin-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20377605 Accessed on 11/05/2020

Check for skin cancer https://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/check-for-signs-of-skin-cancer.html Accessed on 11/05/2020

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: ABCDES OF MELANOMA / https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/find/at-risk/abcdes / Accessed on 25/08/2020

Skin Cancer Screening, https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/skin-cancer-screening/ Accessed on 23/06/2021

Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Symptoms and Signs, https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/skin-cancer-non-melanoma/symptoms-and-signs Accessed on 23/06/2021

Kaposi Sarcoma, https://medlineplus.gov/kaposisarcoma.html Accessed on 23/06/2021

Sebaceous carcinoma, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sebaceous-carcinoma/cdc-20352957 Accessed on 23/06/2021

Merkel cell carcinoma, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/merkel-cell-carcinoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20351030 Accessed on 23/06/2021

Mucosal melanoma, https://dermnetnz.org/topics/mucosal-melanoma/ Accessed on 23/06/2021

Picture of the authorbadge
Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Nov 12, 2021
Medically reviewed by Alaga Health