The early stages of skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand. Put simply, skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.
When we talk about skin cancer, we talk about two types – melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Melanoma is the most serious and can be deadly if not caught early enough - see our article on the four types of melanoma.
Skin cancer can develop very quickly so it’s important to know what the early stages look like. We've created a simple guide to help you identify the different types of skin cancer.
• Most occur in adulthood
• May grow anywhere, but most commonly on trunk (males) and legs (females)
• May be new or changing in shape or colour
• Can be flat or raised and pink, red or dark
• Unusual looking with irregular colour and structure
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Most common form of skin cancer
• Slow growing and unlikely to spread
• Surface may be raised or flat
• May be a dry or ulcerated, non-healing sore
• May be itchy or bleed easily
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
• Second most common form of skin cancer
• Usually due to long-term sun damage
• Usually appears on sun-exposed skin
• Scaly, crusty, red lesions – often tender or sore
• May ulcerate and bleed
* Always on sun-exposed areas
• Superficial, rough, scaly areas
• Not tender or sore
• Reddened lesions, occasionally pigmented
• Could become cancerous
* Can appear anywhere on the body
• Harmless but may be itchy
• More common after age 40
• Wart-like lesions, often dry surface with cracks
• Can be white, pink, yellow or brown
Above: Keep an eye on moles that change in colour and shape.
Spotting the changes: what should you look out for?
In its early stages, skin cancer generally starts with a change to a freckle or mole. It may be a new spot, or one that changes size, shape or colour. It might be a sore that won’t heal or a patch of skin that bleeds. It may also appear as a lump or nodule, an ulcer or a changing lesion.
As skin cancer advances, signs may include: ulceration and bleeding, and the tumour may spread to other areas of the body.
That’s a lot to remember. But what’s good to know is when skin cancer is found and treated early, recovery can be promising.
Prevention is key
It’s so important to look after you and your family’s skin, so remember to protect yourself when you’re out and about in the sunshine. This simple ‘rule of thumb’ can help:
on a SPF30+ sunscreen every day.
PROTECT your skin – cover up or stay in the shade.
OBSERVE – look for changes in your skin regularly.
TRACK changes every year with MoleMap.
And remember, it’s not always easy to detect skin cancer with the naked eye, so make sure you build an annual check-up with MoleMap into your skin health routine.
To learn more about MoleMap’s services or to book an appointment, click here.
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Note: This quick questionnaire is designed to give you an idea of your personal skin cancer risk factors.
It isn’t intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis – please contact us if you have any questions about your skin cancer risk.
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