Melanoma Awareness, Skin Cancer, Skin Checks

7 signs of skin cancer you could be missing

Discover how you can identify the signs of skin cancer early

Team Avatar
Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 18/10/17

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world – and anyone can get skin cancer, although the risk increases as you get older1. Most people think skin cancer is easy to spot, but the fact is, the early signs can be very subtle.

The best way to prevent serious complications from skin cancer is to diagnose it as early as possible. Knowing these 7 warning signs can help to ensure it’s found early, when skin cancer is easier to treat – and beat:

What Are The Signs Of Skin Cancer

Above: Specialists have developed technology to help identify the early stages of skin cancers such as melanoma

1. Changes in the appearance of a mole
Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, but it’s also fastest growing and most life threatening. Melanoma can look a lot like a ‘regular’ mole with a few important distinctions. The best way to remember these differences is by remembering the ABCDE’ guidelines:

  • Asymmetry: One side of the mole looks different from the other
  • Border: The mole has an irregular, uneven, or blurry border
  • Colour: The mole has an unusual colour or contains several colours
  • Diameter: The mole has a diameter of 6mm or more (roughly the diameter of a pencil)
  • Evolving: The mole’s size, shape, colour, or other characteristics have changed

Recently, the Cancer Council announced an update to the diagnosis guidelines to include EFG - elevation, firmness, and growth.

  • Elevated: The mole is raised above the skin
  • Firm: The mole is solid to the touch, firmer than the surrounding skin and doesn’t flatten if pressed
  • Growing: The mole is gradually getting larger

One more thing to remember: while the growth of a new mole can be a sign of melanoma, even moles you’ve had since birth can wind up becoming cancerous as you get older. That’s why it’s important to check all your moles on a regular basis in search of any changes in the way they look and to be mindful of any unusual symptoms like itching or oozing (see below).

Abcde Changes In The Appearance Of A Mole

Above: The ABCDE rule is a great tool to help identify the early stages of skin cancers such as melanoma

2. Skin changes after a mole has been removed
It’s natural to assume that if you’ve had a mole removed, you’re no longer at risk for skin cancer in that area. But cancer cells can extend much deeper into the skin, far below the surface of the mole. If you’ve had a mole removed, any unusual spot or pigmentation that appears on or around the scar should be checked – book a skin and mole check straight away.

Skin Cancers Itching Oozing Blood

Above: If you have a mole or lesion that is bleeding or itchy get it looked at by a skin cancer specialist immediately

3. Itchiness & oozing
Skin cancers can cause itching that doesn’t go away. Often, these areas are misidentified as insect bites - a mistake that can delay proper treatment. If you have a mole or lesion (unusual spot) that starts to itch or itch intensely - especially if it has changed in appearance or has begun to ooze, don’t ignore it. Get it checked as soon as possible.

Skin Cancers Red Bumps That Wont Go Away

Above: skin cancer can often appear as bumps that won't go away or rough and scaly patches

4. A sore or spot that won’t go away
Some skin cancers cause pinkish or reddish bumps that look a lot like pimples, but unlike a pimple, the growth doesn’t go away over time. Others can cause sores or ulcers that are resistant to healing, so if you have a sore or pimple that refuses to go away, book a spot check to be sure it’s nothing to worry about.

5. Scaly patches
Some types of skin cancers cause patches of skin to feel dry, rough, or scaly when touched. Sometimes these patches may be discoloured, but not always. If an area of skin stays rough and scaly even after application of moisturising products, it could be skin cancer.

Alternatively, it could be a lesion called an actinic keratosis (AK), which can be a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma. AKs tend to appear in areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun, including the scalp, and they become more common with age.

Either way, if you have a dry, rough or scaly patch on your skin that doesn’t go away over time, it would pay to get it checked professionally.

Melanoma in the eye

Above: melanoma can appear in the eye and often causes no symptoms until its later stages.

6. Vision problems
While most melanoma appears on the skin, it can also occur in unexpected places such as your eyes. Called ocular melanoma, or OM, melanoma in your eye often causes no symptoms until its later stages. Having routine eye exams is the best way to catch OM as early as possible.

Ocular melanoma is the most common primary cancer of the eye in adults. As it progresses, it can cause symptoms like blurry vision, increasing numbers of floaters (tiny, squiggly lines that move across your field of vision), or an unusual dark or discoloured spot near the iris. OM tends to become more prevalent with age.

7. Changes in your fingernails or toenails
Skin cancer can develop anywhere on your skin, including the skin under your fingernails and toenails. Most commonly, melanoma appears as a dark spot or streak below the nail, although this can also be a sign of a fungal infection, so get it checked if you’re not sure.

If you wear nail polish regularly, check your nails between applications to look for discolouration or other changes, and always remove your nail polish before having a MoleMap or other skin cancer screening.

Know your personal skin cancer risk

Skin cancer can develop in anyone, but some people are more likely to get skin cancer or to have more serious forms of cancer, such as melanoma. This depends on a number of factors including your skin colour, age, lifestyle, number of sunburns, or personal or family history of skin cancer. You can check your personal skin cancer risk factor here.

If your risk level is moderate to high, we recommend a Full Body MoleMap, every year, which includes total body photography and skin mapping over time.

If you’re low risk or have a few moles that concern you, then a thorough, head-to-toe skin check may suit you – or if you have just one mole of concern, book a MoleMap spot check.

If you’re not sure which service is right for you, call our helpful team on 1800 665 362. And if you see any of the 7 signs listed above, don’t hesitate to book an appointment straight away.

Book Now

Source: 1. Cancer Council Australia:

For special offers, promotions and health news

Subscribe to our newsletter!