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With regard to skin cancer symptoms, most people are aware that an unusual mole is a red flag that should be promptly evaluated by a physician. This high level of awareness is a good thing, because melanoma – the most serious type of skin cancer – tends to first appear as a new or changing mole. However, this symptom is not the only cause for concern when it comes to skin cancer.

Consider that, in addition to melanoma, there are several other types of skin cancer. The most common are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which don’t necessarily show up as moles. Due to the relatively high incidence of these conditions, it’s important for everyone to be familiar with their warning signs, as well as the other warning signs of melanoma that are unrelated to moles.

What might other skin cancer symptoms look or feel like?

Here are five less common skin cancer symptoms to be watchful for:

  1. Scaly patches – Sometimes, the first sign of skin cancer is a rough area of red or brown skin that resembles a scab or wart.
  2. Irritation – Basal cell carcinomas may first appear as a small patch of itchy, irritated skin. Often dismissed as nothing more than dry skin, this type of inflammation could be a sign that the body’s immune system is responding to a cancerous skin lesion.
  3. Open sores – Basal cell carcinomas may also emerge as open, bloody or scabbed-over sores, similar to the scabby skin that develops after a very bad sunburn.
  4. Skin "craters" – Squamous cell carcinomas sometimes resemble shallow volcanoes with blood-filled centers.
  5. Non-skin-related symptoms – Because melanoma can potentially spread to distant areas of the body, it can cause a variety of other symptoms depending on its location. For instance, melanoma near the lungs may lead to shortness of breath, while melanoma on the head can result in headaches or vision changes.

Of course, most of these skin cancer symptoms are commonly associated with less serious conditions, such as minor skin wounds that typically heal within a few days. However, a skin lesion that persists for more than a week should be checked out by a physician.

If you have skin cancer symptoms, you don’t need a referral to have your condition evaluated by an oncologist in the Cutaneous Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.