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Skin Cancer Exams

Signs of Skin Cancer or Precancerous Lesions

Many patients come into our office because they have discovered spots they are afraid may be cancerous. Signs that signal potential skin cancers should always be evaluated by a professional. Different types of cancers and precancerous cells have varying discernible patterns as follow:

Actinic Keratosis

The precancerous patches of actinic keratosis are typically smaller than an inch in diameter, and present as rough, dry or scaly areas, flat or slightly raised. Sometimes they may have a hard surface, like a wart, and they may itch. Color varies from pink to red or brown. Usually these patches appear on areas exposed to sunlight — face, ears, hands, neck, scalp, and forearms. A related precancerous condition, known as actinic cheilitis typically appears as scaly patches or ongoing roughness on the lips. Less commonly, actinic cheilitis can

present as swelling of the lip, loss of the sharp border between the lip and skin, or prominent lip lines.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Signs of basal cell carcinoma may include two or more of the following:

  • Open sore that bleeds, crusts, or oozes for several weeks
  • Shiny, translucent pearly white, pink or red bump
  • Raised reddish patch that crusts or itches
  • Pink growth with elevated border and crusted indented center
  • Scar-like white, yellow or waxy area with poorly defined border

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma often announces itself by a crusty surface that may, left alone, begin bleeding. It may appear as:

  • A wart-like growth with a rough texture
  • A scaly, persistent, red patch with irregular borders
  • An open sore that persists for weeks
  • A raised growth with a rough surface and a central depression


Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer because of its ability to metastasize rapidly. This is why it is extremely important to detect melanomas at their earliest stage. The alphabet of melanoma detection is important to commit to memory:

  • A is for asymmetrical
  • B is for a border that is irregular of jagged
  • C is for uneven color
  • D is for diameter (larger than a pea)
  • E is for evolving (changing over a period of days or weeks)

Although all types of skin cancers or precancers mentioned should be examined and treated by a skilled dermatologist or skin care specialist, they are listed here in order from the least to most serious. Even so, since skin cancers are often difficult to distinguish from benign skin irregularities, as well as from one another, it is crucial to have a trained and experienced provider examine and evaluate your skin as part of your normal health routine.

Book an Appointment by clicking here to select the time and day which is most convenient for you for a full body skin cancer exam.

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