Skin cancers are sneaky and can come in many different guises, making them hard to identify with the naked eye.

However, self-skin checks remain an important weapon in the battle against skin cancer and there are some distinguishing features that every North Queenslander should be aware of when looking at their skin spots.

You should be on the lookout for:
Sores that won’t heal within a few weeks
New skin spots especially if they stand out or look and feel different to others you have
Spots that are changing in size, colour or shape

If you’re after more detail we’ve compiled a quick reference guide to different types of skin cancer below.

Identifying Basal Cell Cancers (BCC)

BCCs are the most common form of skin cancer and occur on the sun-exposed areas of the body. They are the least dangerous; however they will become increasingly aggressive the longer they are left untreated.

BCCs are can be pink or pearly white and may have visible blood vessels; they can also look like brown or blue moles; or appear as slightly scaly red spots.

The appearance of BCCs can range from small bumps or flat spots to open sores or scars.

BCCs are often quick to bleed, can cause discomfort and irritation and may look like sores that fail to heal after a few weeks.

The give-away: 
BCCs tend to bleed easily and can cause irritation when you sweat or take a hot shower. If you find a skin spot bleeds when you brush it our dry off with a towel, or if it’s causing you any irritation, we recommend seeing a qualified skin cancer doctor to have it identified and treated, if necessary.

Identifying Squamous Cell Cancer (SCCs)

Most SCCs are caused by chronic sun exposure and most commonly appear on the face, arms and below knee. While most SCCs are not serious, it is important they be treated to prevent the possibility of them spreading to lymph nodes.

SCCs are often skin coloured with thick adherent scale but more aggressive subtypes can also appear as red lumps or ulcers that bleed easily.

SCCs are typically rough, scaly and raised. They can look like warts, persistent scaly red patches or open sores

SCCs are prone to crusting and bleeding and can be quite painful if knocked or bumped.

The give-away: 
If you find a rapidly growing or changing sore or raised spot – particularly in an area that has experienced regular or extreme sun exposure, we recommend seeing a qualified skin cancer specialist as soon as possible.

Read more about SCCs here (link to SCC page)

Identifying Melanoma

Melanomas are quite possibly the trickiest of the three as they can come in a variety of guises developing in normal looking skin or(less commonly) in existing moles).

Melanomas can be black, brown, tan, pink, red, grey, blue or even skin coloured.

Melanomas can be flat or raised with a smooth, crusted or ulcerated surface.

Melanomas can sometimes be itchy, but more often than there will be no sensation (like itch or pain), especially if they are still in the early, curable stages.

The give-away: 
Melanomas can change colour size or shape over weeks or months. If you notice rapid changes to a spot on your skin, we recommend having a medical skin check as soon as possible to properly identify the spot and treat it if necessary.

Remember, no-one knows your skin like you do. If you notice any changes in your skin or skin spots that cause concern, it is important to seek the advice of an accredited skin cancer specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. There are also options for clinical trials, with 18 trials currently available for skin cancer, including ones aimed at targeted therapies and immunotherapies. You can find out more here.

At Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic our purpose is to ease the burden of skin cancers for North Queenslanders and help prevent loss of life to melanoma.