Identifying Skin Cancer

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Published on June 03, 2020

Identifying Skin Cancer

About Skin Cancer

Image of a cancerous moleSkin cancer is very common – an estimated one in five Americans will develop it. Skin cancer does not discriminate based on race or color of skin, although people with light skin who burn easily have a higher risk1. If you notice changes in a mole or have a spot on your skin that itches or bleeds, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Common Types of Skin Cancer

Actinic Keratoses (AK)

  • AKs are pre-cancerous growths
  • Usually affect the head, neck and arms
  • Found in fair-skinned people
  • Normally found as people age, due to long-term exposure to the sun

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer
  • Looks like a pink or flesh colored bump
  • Develops due to sun exposure or indoor tanning booths
  • Commonly found on the head, neck and arms but can develop anywhere on the body
  • Early diagnosis is crucial because it can spread to the bones or nerves and cause damage or disfigurement

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer
  • Can look like a red, firm bump, scaly patch or a sore that heals and opens again
  • Early diagnosis can prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body, causing damage and disfigurement
  • Forms on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun


  • Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer
  • Most often develops in a mole or can show up as a new dark spot on the skin
  • Diagnosis is critical and can prevent death

Preventing Skin Cancer

PIH Health dermatologist Lubomira Scherschun MD says, “Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day, even if it’s raining”.

More tips to help prevent skin cancer:

  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10 am and 4 pm
  • Keep newborn children out of the sun
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Don’t get sunburnt
  • Examine your skin once a month and see your doctor if you notice any changes or symptoms described above
  • See your physician every year for a skin check

If you would like to make an appointment to see a PIH Health dermatologist, visit or call 562.789.5429.


1 American Academy of Dermatology

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.