What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so you’ve likely seen an influx of articles and social media posts explaining the importance of sun protection and getting regular exams from your dermatologist. With so much information out there, it can be confusing to know what to look for when doing a skin self-exam and when it might be necessary to give your dermatologist’s office a call. 


To help sort out confusion about what skin cancer looks like, we spoke with board-certified dermatologist Dr. Allison Schwedelson. 


“Skin cancer can look like anything,” Dr. Schwedelson explains, “which is why it is so important to get skin exams from a board-certified dermatologist. It takes many years of experience to be able to identify skin cancers.


“That being said, the advice I always tell my patients is to come in if they notice anything new, unusual, or changing. There’s no specific color, shape, or size that means a lesion is likely a skin cancer. Skin cancers can look very diverse in all skin types.”

How to Perform a Skin Self-Exam

As Dr. Schwedelson emphasizes, it is crucial that you schedule an annual or biannual check up with your dermatologist to check for potential skin cancers. However, in the meantime, you can perform self-exams on your skin to keep track of any changes in appearance of existing moles or dark spots on your skin.


To do this, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends checking for the “ABCDEs” of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry
  • Borders that are irregular or not distinct 
  • Color that is not uniform or that changes over time 
  • Diameter that increases over time 
  • Evolution, or any change that you notice in a mole or dark spot over time

You can keep a recording of where moles are located on your body to help you keep track of what they look like each time you check. That way, you can easily pinpoint a change in appearance and alert your dermatologist. 


When performing a self-exam, check yourself from head to toe, including areas that get little sun, such as your scalp, the bottoms of your feet, and groin area. If you notice anything that looks out of the ordinary or that appears to be changing in any of the characteristics listed above, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist right away. 


If you are ready for your yearly skin check or want to be seen for a complimentary consultation, please fill out the online form here, or call our Boca Raton office at 561-486-9339.