Signs and symptoms of skin cancer

Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers can appear in a variety of forms. They are usually painless and grow slowly. They can show up anywhere on your body but are most likely to appear on exposed skin, especially on your face or neck.

Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell cancers may:

  • be smooth and pearly
  • look waxy
  • appear as a firm, red lump
  • bleed sometimes
  • develop a crust or scab
  • begin to heal but never completely heal
  • be itchy
  • look like a flat, red spot which is scaly and crusty
  • develop into a painless ulcer.

Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell cancers usually develop in areas that have been damaged by sun exposure. They are mainly found on the face, neck, bald scalps, arms, backs of hands and lower legs. Squamous cell cancers may:

  • look scaly

  • have a hard, horny cap

  • make the skin raised in the area of the cancer

  • feel tender to touch

  • bleed sometimes.

Changes to your skin

If you notice anything unusual on your skin that doesn’t go away in a month, show it to your doctor. It might help to take a photograph of anything unusual so you can check for any changes. Remember that there are many other conditions that appear in the skin that are not cancer, especially in older people.