What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

Regular check-ups are important.

Melanoma is curable
if detected early.


Get skin cancer screening at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Most patients ask just this question when they see a new or changing spot on their skin. Skin cancers, such as melanoma, result from overexposure to the sun. Of the 3 different types of skin cancer, melanoma is more aggressive than basal cell skin cancer or sqamous cell skin cancer. It can occur anywhere on the body. And it can be deadly.

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 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 cutaneous oncology 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 may also include participation in clinical trials at Fox Chase for various stages of melanoma, early or advanced. Ask your Fox Chase doctor if a melanoma clinical trial is right for you.

Isolated Limb Infusion for in-Transit Melanoma

Metastatic melanoma is one of the hardest cancers to treat. When there is in-transit melanoma in an arm or a leg, Isolated Limb Infusion (ILI) can concentrate the effects of chemotherapy in the affected area, easing the strain and toxicity on the full body that can accompany standard chemotherapy. It also allows a much higher concentration of the dose than a standard intravenous chemotherapy would permit.

Preventing Melanoma

For healthy people at high risk of melanoma, Fox Chase Cancer Center offers Melanoma Risk Assessment. If you have a personal or family medical history of melanoma, this program can help you understand the signs of skin cancer and how to prevent the disease. 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.

See National Cancer Institute information on Skin Cancer


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