Skin cancer symptoms

Skin cancers can look very different and the symptoms can vary. Some of the symptoms are similar to other conditions.

Common symptoms of skin cancer include a sore or area of skin that:

  • doesn't heal within 4 weeks
  • looks unusual
  • hurts, is itchy, bleeds, crusts or scabs for more than 4 weeks
Speak to your GP if you have any of these symptoms or are worried about any abnormal areas of skin.

What to look out for

A sore that doesn't heal

The sore can look see through, shiny and pink or pearly white. It can also look red. It may feel sore, rough and have raised edges.


Look out for an area of skin that has broken down (an ulcer) and doesn't heal within 4 weeks, and you can't think of a reason for this change. 

A lump

This might be small, slow growing, shiny and pink or red.

Red patches on your skin

These red patches could also be itchy. This could be due to other non cancerous skin conditions. But get it checked to make sure.

Freckles or moles

A change to a mole or freckle can be a sign of another type of skin cancer called melanoma.

Looking for signs of skin cancer

Non melanoma skin cancer tends to develop most often on skin exposed to the sun.

To spot skin cancer early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you'll notice any changes more easily.

To look at areas you can’t see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if you're regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure. 

You can take a photo of anything that doesn't look quite right. If you can it's a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it's changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor. 

Last reviewed: 
16 Dec 2022
Next review due: 
16 Dec 2025

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