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Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Symptoms

What are the symptoms of nonmelanoma skin cancer?

Nonmelanoma skin cancer may appear as a new growth. Or it may occur as a change in the size or in the color of a growth you already have. These changes can happen slowly or quickly. Here are things to look out for.

Basal cell carcinoma 

This type of skin cancer often develops in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, face, neck, arms, and hands. The cancer may be:

  • A small, raised bump that is shiny or pearly. It may have small blood vessels in it.

  • A small, flat spot that is scaly, irregularly shaped, and pale, pink, or red.

  • A spot that bleeds easily and briefly, then heals up and appears to go away. It then bleeds again in a few weeks.

  • Sores that don't heal.

  • A growth with raised edges, a lower area in the center, and brown, blue, or black areas.

Squamous cell carcinoma 

Like basal cell cancer, it often starts in areas of skin exposed to the sun, such as the face, head, neck, arms, and hands. But it can also start in other parts of the body, such as skin in the genital area. The cancer may be:

  • A rough or scaly bump that appears, then grows quickly.

  • A wart-like growth that might bleed or crust over.

  • Flat, red patches on the skin that are irregularly shaped. The patches may or may not bleed.

Although these are symptoms of skin cancer, they may also be caused by other less serious problems. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.

Merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell cancer tumors are most often found on sun-exposed areas of skin, such as the face, neck, and arms. But they can start anywhere on the body. They usually appear as firm, shiny skin lumps that don't hurt. The lumps may be red, pink, or blue. They tend to grow very quickly.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

This type of skin cancer causes scaly patches or bumps. The patches or bumps are often red or purple and often itch. Here are examples of some skin cancer lesions.

Skin cancer showing shiny, pale, waxy lump.
Small, smooth, shiny, pale, or waxy lump
Skin cancer showing a firm, red lump.
Firm, red lump
Skin cancer showing a lump with a crust or scab.
A lump that bleeds or develops a crust

When to see your healthcare provider

Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems. But it's important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2019
© 2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.