What Skin Cancer Really Looks Like

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, when it comes to skin cancer, always remember the ABCDEs for moles and spots: A for Asymmetry (half of the spot is unlike the other half); B for Border (the spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border); C for Color (the spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red or blue); D for Diameter (melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters, or about the size of a pencil eraser, but when diagnosed, they can be smaller); and E for Evolving (the spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color).

Below are eight different skin cancers New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD diagnosed this month, most of which were good prognoses. And if I’ve learned anything from studying these pictures, it’s that skin cancer can be easily disguised as a pimple or a common sunspot, and does not always look threatening. That’s why it’s imperative to get an annual skin check—those with fair skin or a family history of skin cancer may get them more often—and have the trained eyes of a board-certified dermatologist or physician assistant look you over head to toe.


“This is a Stage 0 pink squamous cell skin cancer found on the arm—a good prognosis.”


“This is an early brown melanoma found on the scalp.” 


“Another good prognosis: This is a Stage 0 brown squamous cell skin cancer found on the neck.” 


“This is an early brown nodular basal cell skin cancer found on the patient’s back.” 


“This is an early brown nodular basal cell skin cancer found on the nose with no ABCDEs.”


“This is an early pink nodular basal cell skin cancer on the forehead—a good prognosis.”


“Also a good prognosis, this is an early pink basal cell skin cancer found on the back.”


“This is a superficial-type pink basal cell skin cancer found on the patient’s arm, another good prognosis.”

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