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Skin Cancers: What Do They Look Like?

Precancerous skin changes and skin cancer have characteristic appearances and are often curable when detected and treated in early. Health care professionals are able to evaluate many skin abnormalities. A primary care physician may be the first health care professional you go to if you notice something suspicious on your skin. Dermatologists are physicians with extensive training in skin care and skin disorders, particularly skin cancer. Your primary care doctor may refer you for an initial assessment with a dermatologist if your condition needs further evaluation and/or treatment.

The first step in detecting abnormalities that may be skin cancer begins with you. The single most important feature that may signal the presence of a skin cancer is a new, changing, enlarging skin growth that persists. Look for changes in color, size, thickness and surface texture of a mole or other suspicious skin lesions. Sores that won't heal may also indicate cancerous or precancerous conditions of the skin that need attention. Examine your skin once a month for any suspicious changes. Not all skin cancers are symptomatic, many are painless. Early treatment is critical.

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Last reviewed by UCSF Dermatologists
February 15, 2006

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
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