What is Skin Cancer: Signs, Symptoms, Detection & Diagnosis, Prevention, Risk Factor

Skin cancer is a condition in which certain growths appear on the skin that possesses cancerous properties. These growths originate from cells that have a normal reproductive ability but later transform to cells that potentially reproduce in a contumacious manner. Even though there exists’ an uncontrollable reproduction of the cancerous cells still these do not spread throughout the body thus, it is not a life threatening condition.

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer: Overview

Skin cancer can be defined as the anomalous growth of skin cells that most likely develops from exposure to the ultra violet radiations. In certain cases, the cancer may develop even in areas of the body that are not exposed to the sun. The risk of skin cancer can be reduced by escaping or limiting exposure to the same.

Skin cancer can be classified into three types which are:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: It is the most common type of skin cancer condition in which the lower part of the epidermis gets cancerous. This leads to lesions, open sores, bumps, shiny patches and scars on the skin.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: The squamous cells that form the outer layer of skin gets affected in this condition and in some cases the cancerous growths may metastasize. This type of skin cancer is commonly found in vaginal, anal, cervix, head and neck region.
  • Melanoma: It is the most severe type of skin cancer that occurs in melanocytes which are responsible for the synthesis of melatonin. In this type of skin cancer, the melanocytes develop tumors that are malignant in nature. It can affect any part of the body.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer

The warning signs for skin cancer usually involve:

  • Unhealed sores that ooze sometimes.
  • Occurrence and spreading of pigmentation to the adjoining skin.
  • Patchy reddishness of the skin.
  • Inflammation and swelling beyond the periphery of the mole or patch.
  • Itchiness, pain and tender sensation in the affected region of the skin.
  • Surface of the patch or mole may become lumpy or may bleed sometime.

Risk Factors of Skin Cancer

The common factors that pose a risk for skin cancer are:

  • Prolonged exposure to ultra violet radiations.
  • History of individuals with repeated sunburns or skin cancer.
  • Individuals with hazel or blue eye color or blond or red hair color.
  • Immunosuppressive health conditions like AIDS or Cancer.
  • X-Ray Exposure.

Early Detection and Diagnosis of Skin Cancer

Early detection of skin cancer becomes extremely important for an individual because it minimizes the chances of deformity of the skin or death. For early diagnosis, it also becomes important to check for the symptoms that can be termed as potential agents for skin cancer. Skin cancer is broadly classified to Melanomas and Non-Melanomas based on the severity. Each type has special visible symptoms for early diagnosis of the condition. These are:

  • Basal Cell Carcinomas: In case of skin cancer of basal cells the symptoms show up as:
    • Scarring on the skin
    • Skin has specific areas which become flat, pale, and firm
    • Sores that ooze but do not heal
    • Itchy skin
    • Red patches
    • Small bumps which are reddish to translucent in appearance with blue, black and brown areas.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinomas: The squamous cell carcinomas show warning signs which are:
    • Patchy and rough skin
    • Crusted skin which bleeds sometimes
    • Lumpy growths on the skin
    • Recurrent open sore which may or may not bleed
    • Growths on skin that appear like warts.
  • Melanomas: The possible signs of emerging melanoma are presence of a new spot on the skin that starts to change its color, shape or size. Another characteristic feature about the spot is the difference of the spot from the existing ones. This is also sometimes called as the ugly duckling sign. The symptoms of melanoma are cumulated as per the ABCDE rule which is:
    • A – Asymmetry: If a mole or a patch is present but does not match with its other half.
    • B – Border: The edges appear to be irregular, blurred, shabby and uneven.
    • C – Color: Color varies over time with varied shades of brown or black to pink, blue, red and white.
    • D – Diameter: Size is usually greater than quarter of an inch.
    • E – Evolving: The growth changes its shape, size and color.

Prevention of Skin Cancer

As it is correctly stated that prevention is better than cure, so it should always be kept in mind that appropriate measure should be followed to prevent the skin cancers.

Some of the measures that can be followed are:

  • Limiting Sun Exposure: Ultra violet radiations that are present in the rays of the sun are extremely harmful for the skin. Therefore, it should be ensured that the outdoor activities should be scheduled in times other than the middle of the day. This prevents the occurrence of sunburns and sun tans to a large extent which further reduces the chances of skin cancer.
  • Refraining from Tanning Beds: Tanning beds utilize ultra violet radiations to tan the skin; this in turn greatly increases the chances of skin cancer.
  • Daily Sunscreen Application: Sunscreens greatly reduce the chances of skin cancer as it conceals the skin from most of the harmful rays of the sun. Though, one must ensure that the sunscreen should at least be SPF 15 and it should be applied at regular intervals of two hours.
  • Wearing Protective Clothing: Protective clothing is a must when walking out in the sun because these provide complete protection from harmful ultra violet radiations which is not provided by the sunscreens. Also, sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection should be used to protect the eyes from ultra violet radiations.


Skin cancer could be very difficult to handle if not identified and treated on time. However, following certain very simple precautionary measures can help in preventing one from this type of cancer.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2022

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