Skin Cancer

What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

Signs of Skin Cancer

The "ABCDE rule" is an easy guide to the common melanoma symptoms (see picture of skin cancer, top right). Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about any spots that match the following description :

  • A=ASYMMETRY: 1/2 of a mole or birthmark does not match the other 1/2
  • B=BORDER: the edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred
  • C=COLOR: the color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white or blue
  • D=DIAMETER: the spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger
  • E=EVOLUTION: Any mole that is changing in color, size, or shape
Melanoma Melanoma Melanoma Melanoma
Melanoma Melanoma E
  Images Courtesy of the American Cancer Society

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells develop from parts of the skin. It is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. Nonmelanoma skin cancers tend to grow slowly and rarely spread. Of the 3 different types of skin cancer, melanoma is the least common but more aggressive than basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. It can occur anywhere on the body. And it can be deadly.

  • Basal cell carcinomas look like flat, firm, pale areas or small, raised, pink or red, translucent, shiny, waxy areas that may bleed. They may be low in their center, and/or blue, brown or black areas. This is the most common cancer, accounting for over 75% of all skin cancers.
  • Squamous cell carcinomas may look like growing lumps, often with a rough, scaly, or crusted surface. They also may look like flat reddish patches in the skin that grow slowly. Squamous cell carcinomas commonly appear on the face, ear, neck, lip and the back of the hands. They account for 20% of all skin cancers.
  • Other much less common types of nonmelanoma skin cancers include: atypical fibroxanthoma, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, Merkel cell carcinoma and Kaposi's sarcoma.

Clinical Trials

In addition to standard skin cancer treatment, Fox Chase physicians participate in ongoing clinical trials, focusing on new skin cancer treatments and prevention methods for both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. Our physicians are experts in treating rare nonmelanomas such as some forms of lymphoma, called primary cutaneous lymphomas.
Read more about
Clinical Trials »

Advanced Treatment for Nonmelanoma

Our team of nationally recognized physicians offers a range of treatment options for nonmelanoma skin cancer based on the stage and type of your disease. Mohs skin cancer surgery is a highly effective and precise method for treating many basal- and squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin by removing cancerous tissue while preserving healthy tissue. In many cases, Mohs surgery will provide the highest cure rates while preserving the most normal skin.
Nonmelanoma Treatment

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a form of cancer that begins in pigmented cells (melanocytes) - those containing melanin (color), such as moles. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, tanning lamps and tanning booths is a major risk factor for melanoma and other types of skin cancers (nonmelanoma). Rates of melanoma in the United States have doubled since the 1970s, with over 54,000 new cases each year. Melanoma is now one of the most common cancers in Americans under the age of 30.

There are 4 types of melanoma, each with its own symptoms.

Treatment for Melanoma

At Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, we take a team approach to caring for our patients with melanoma. Our skin cancer doctors specialize in surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, dermatology and plastic surgery. Together, they review your case to offer the best melanoma treatment plan for you.
Melanoma Treatment

Preventing Melanoma

For healthy people at high risk of melanoma, Fox Chase Cancer Center offers the Risk Assessment Program. If you have a personal or family medical history of melanoma, this program can help. Physicians and other health professionals offer you education about risk factors and melanoma prevention, a personal risk assessment, skin screening recommendations and opportunities to participate in clinical studies.

Precancerous Skin Condition

Actinic keratosis, or solar keratosis, is a precancerous skin condition that results from overexposure to the sun. These small rough spots are pink, red or flesh-colored and often appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, ears, back of the hands and arms. Actinic keratoses may progress to invasive skin cancers, but more importantly serve as a marker for patients who are at a higher risk of developing invasive skin cancers elsewhere on their bodies.

Skin Cancer Screening

Regular check-ups are important.

avoid skin cancerMelanoma is curable if detected early.

Fox Chase provides skin cancer screening at 8 Huntingdon Pike. Call the Dermatology Scheduling Office at 215-728-2754.


Sun Safety Tips

Keep yourself protected to lower your risk of skin cancer. [PDF]
Read more »

NCI PDQ
See National Cancer Institute information on Skin Cancer

For more information about nonmelanoma or melanoma symptoms, treatment and prevention at Fox Chase Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427).

Request an Appointment Appointments, referrals, or health questions,
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Resources and Education for Patients and their families

The Resource and Education Center

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