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Non-melanoma skin cancer

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Signs and symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer

A sign is something that can be observed and recognized by a doctor or healthcare professional (for example, a rash). A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can feel and know (for example, pain or tiredness). The signs and symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer can also be caused by other health conditions. It is important to have any unusual symptoms checked by a doctor.

Non-melanoma skin cancers can appear in a variety of forms. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) may be slow growing, but squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can grow fairly quickly. Both types of non-melanoma skin cancer are usually painless. They can appear anywhere on the body, but are most likely to occur on skin that is exposed to the sun.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

BCC commonly occurs on the face, scalp, ears, hands, shoulders and back. Signs and symptoms of BCC include:

  • a sore that does not heal
  • areas of the skin that:
    • are smooth and pearly
    • look waxy
    • look like a firm, red lump
    • sometimes bleed
    • develop a crust or scab
    • look like sores that show signs of healing but never heal
    • are itchy
    • look flat, red, scaly and crusty
    • develop into an ulcer (open sore)
    • have dilated (larger) blood vessels or appear blue, brown or black

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

SCC commonly occurs on the face, ears, neck, lips, backs of the hands, shoulders, arms and legs. These tumours can also develop in scars or skin ulcers. Signs and symptoms of SCC include:

  • a firm spot or lump, often with a hard, rough, scaly or crusted surface
  • a flat reddish patch
  • an ulcer that doesn’t heal


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