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The ABCDE Signs of Skin Cancer: "C" Is for Color

Various Shades of Skin Cancer

There are various forms of skin cancer, each with their own unique characteristics. There are basically two main types: keratinocyte cancers (basal and squamous cell skin cancers) and melanomas. There are various other types of skin cancers as well, but they are much less common.
It's important to know what skin cancer looks like so you can catch any potential signs as early as possible. Leaving this disease untreated may result in the cancer spreading to other areas of the body, where it is more difficult to treat and could be fatal.

What Do Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Look Like?

By far, basal and squamous cell skin cancer are the most common cancers of the skin. They develop from cells called keratinocytes, the most common cells in the skin. Basal and squamous cancer cells are mainly found on parts of the skin that receive sun exposure, such as the head and neck.
In general, squamous cell carcinomas usually look like a thick, rough, scaly patch that can bleed when bumped. This form of skin cancer often looks like warts. Some signs of the condition can include:
  • A scaly red patch that has irregular borders; it may be crusty and bleed
  • A part of the skin is raised up and has a depression in the center; it may bleed and can increase in size quickly
  • An open sore that bleeds and crusts and persists for weeks
  • A wart-like growth that crusts and may also bleed.
Basal cell skin cancer can sometimes look like eczema or psoriasis. Some of the indicators for this condition include:
  • A pearly or translucent bump that is often white, pink, or red. In dark-haired people, it may also be tan, black, or brown in color.
  • A sore that bleeds, oozes, and crusts but remains open for a few weeks. It may heal up and then bleed again.
  • Patches of red, irritated skin that may crust and itch.
  • A scar-like area of the skin that is waxy, yellow, or white, and has poorly defined borders. The skin appears shiny and taut.
  • A pink growth with an elevated, rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. As it gets bigger, tiny blood vessels may develop on the surface.
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