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Not-so-Common Skin Cancer Symptoms

  • Category: Cancer, Dermatology
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
Not-so-Common Skin Cancer Symptoms

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with nearly one in five Americans developing it in their lifetime. Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color. The incidence of skin cancer among non-Hispanic Whites is almost 30 times higher than that among non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander individuals. But, skin cancer in patients with darker skin tones is often diagnosed in its later stages, when it’s more difficult to treat.

You may be familiar with the skin cancer awareness concepts popularized by the American Academy of Dermatology’s “ABCDEs of melanoma”: If you notice spots that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders or varying color, or that are changing or bleeding, get them checked out by a dermatologist. But, there are some other not-so-common symptoms to watch out for:

Itchy, Painful Skin

While melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, some nonmelanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more likely to be itchy or tender. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are highly treatable if detected early and treated properly. Researchers found that pain and itch often went hand-in-hand: 46% of spots associated with itch also had pain, and 60% of painful spots also involved itch.


Although rare, skin cancer can develop under and around the nails. A new or changing dark streak on either a toenail or fingernail could be a sign of melanoma. It’s more common in older individuals and people with skin of color. In addition, a personal or family history of melanoma or previous nail trauma could be risk factors.

Pimple-like Growth

Most of us keep an eye out for mole-like brown spots or red spots, but basal cell carcinoma may resemble a pimple or shiny red bump or sore. If it doesn’t heal, or it bleeds or crusts over, it’s best to get it checked out.

Depression in the Skin

Squamous cell carcinoma may present as a wart-like, scaly lesion, while a basal cell skin cancer sometimes presents as a spot with a depression in the center. A pink or reddish growth that dips in the center could be mistaken for a minor skin injury, but may actually be skin cancer.

Irregular Eye Exam

Did you know it’s possible to get melanoma of the eye? Though rare, it is more common in people with fair skin or blue eyes and can be found during a regular eye exam. A growing eye melanoma may cause glaucoma, vision loss, and can even spread beyond the eye. Symptoms may include changes in the color of your iris, vision changes, red, swollen eyes, or small defects that can be seen on your iris or conjunctiva (the outermost layer of the front of the eye).

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer, are highly treatable if detected early and treated properly. And the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%. This is why prevention is so important. Wearing SPF 30 or higher sunscreen daily -- along with seeking shade and wearing protective clothing – helps protect the skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.

If you notice any unusual changes or growths on the skin, make an appointment with your dermatologist. Click here to make an appointment with a Baton Rouge General dermatologist.