Do you know how to spot skin cancer?

Skin cancer is one of the more common forms of cancer, but you can spot the warning signs early—if you know what to look for.

“Skin cancer is very prevalent in our area, and it can be a very serious diagnosis. There’s good news, however. The vast majority of skin cancer cases are highly treatable if caught in the early stages,” said Adam Wisor, MSN, Nurse Practitioner at the Penn Highlands Hahne Cancer Center.

The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are highly treatable if detected early.

These are the warning signs of basal cell cancer:

  • Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
  • Raised reddish patches that might be itchy
  • Small translucent, shiny, pearly bumps that are pink or red and which might have blue, brown or black areas
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, which might have abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
  • Open sores (that may have oozing or crusted areas) and which don’t heal, or heal and then come back

And these are the warning signs of squamous cell cancer:

  • Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores (that may have oozing or crusted areas) and which don’t heal, or heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths

Melanoma is less common than basal and squamous cell cancers, but it’s one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Use the “ABCDE” rule to look for the most common signs:

A is for asymmetry.
Does one side of a mole or birthmark not match the other side?

B is for border.
Are the edges of a mole, birthmark or spot irregular, ragged, notched or blurred?

C is for color.
Is the color not the same all over? Are there different shades of brown or black or patches of white, pink, red or blue?

D is for diameter.
Is the mole, birthmark or spot larger than a quarter inch across (about the size of a pencil eraser)?

E is for evolving.
Is the mole changing in shape, size or color?

Finally, not all skin cancers look the same. If you notice anything abnormal, such as the following symptoms, consult your healthcare provider:

  • Any new spots
  • Any spot that doesn’t look like others on your body
  • Any sore that doesn’t heal
  • Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole
  • Color that spreads from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
  • Itching, pain or tenderness in an area that doesn’t go away or goes away then comes back
  • Changes in the surface of a mole: oozing, scaliness, bleeding or the appearance of a lump or bump

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers comprehensive cancer care, from early detection to advanced treatment for all types of cancer. From diagnosis through remission and beyond, we are here to support you every step of the way. And whether you need radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy or other cancer treatments, you’ll never need to be far from home at Penn Highlands. For more information, please visit