Skin cancers don't all look the same but there are some signs to look out for:
It's important to get to know your skin. Examining your skin will help you notice changes and learn what is normal for you.
If you see anything new or different on your skin, see your general practitioner (GP) or a dermatologist straightaway. Skin cancers that are found and treated early need less invasive treatment and have a better outcome (prognosis).
Not all spots that appear on your skin are cancerous. However, freckles, moles or sunspots are warning signs that your skin has had too much sun exposure and you may be at greater risk of developing skin cancer.
A mole is a normal growth on the skin. Moles (naevi) develop when the pigment-producing cells of the skin (melanocytes) grow in groups. Moles are very common. Some people have many moles on their body and this can run in families. Overexposure to the sun, especially in childhood, can also lead to more moles growing on the skin.
Moles that have an irregular shape and an uneven colour are called dysplastic naevi. People with many dysplastic naevi are at a higher risk of developing melanoma. If you have these moles, you should regularly check your skin for any changes and look for new skin spots. If you notice any changes, see your doctor immediately.
Red, scaly spots on the skin that feel rough are called sunspots (solar keratoses). They usually occur in people aged over 40 on areas of skin exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, hands, foreams and legs. Some solar keratoses may develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
For further information and advice, call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20.
Last Reviewed: 01 March 2011