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Five Uncommon Signs of Skin Cancer to Watch For

Hopefully, you are regularly checking your body for signs of skin cancer. Common symptoms of skin cancer include asymmetrical moles, a patch of skin with different colors such as brown, black, pink, white, or red, or raised reddish patches on your skin that don’t go away and are itchy. But there are some lesser-known signs of skin cancer, and we want you to be aware of these. 

Here are five uncommon skin cancer signs you should check for. They are not typical of what we usually think of as signs of skin cancer; in turn, individuals may miss these signs when screening their skin for skin cancers. 

1. A Change in Fingernails

Suppose you get a manicure from your local nail salon every two weeks. When they remove the polish, you spot a nail that has a dark brown or black discoloration of the nail bed. This spot is not a result of your manicure! This discoloration could be a form of skin cancer known as subungual melanoma. While a very rare form of cancer, it is most often seen in adults 60 or older. It can also present as a bruise that doesn’t grow out with the nail. It is most often seen in the thumbnail or the big toe, and it often occurs in non-Caucasians (only 2% of cases are in white-skinned individuals.) 

Squamous cell carcinomas are another form of skin cancer that may be seen around the nails. This type of skin cancer can also cause the nail to grow abnormally. They may also occur on the skin surrounding the nails and appear very similar to warts.

So make sure you check your nail area very carefully, and if you are in the high-risk group (non-Caucasians over the age of 60), consider clear nail polish only so that you can see if any of these uncommon symptoms arise.   

2. Pimple-Like Growths

Yes, skin cancer can sometimes look like a pimple! But it’s more likely to be a waxy or firm red lump. These types of lumps can be signs of basal or squamous cell carcinomas.

The rule of thumb is a growth that comes up suddenly and doesn’t seem to be going away after a couple of months. When this happens, you’ll know it’s time to see your dermatologist for the next steps. 

3. An Irregular Eye Exam

Believe it or not, melanomas can appear on the eye; we refer to them as ocular melanomas. If you have a history of melanoma, it is recommended that you have an eye exam once a year. Dermatologists may notice these when examining the eye as a routine annual checkup but the findings can be very subtle. You may not even notice yourself. It is often the case that your eye doctor finds it during a routine eye exam. 

Although a rare cancer, it can spread to other body parts, such as tissues in and around the eye. People most at risk for this type of cancer are usually fair-skinned, have repeated eye exposure to UV lights from the sun, and are our older population. 

Ocular melanoma is another example of why you should check your eyes once a year because many eye doctors can spot ocular melanoma immediately

4. A Mole that Loses Color

Melanoma skin cancers may begin as benign moles or they can arise de novo on the skin. If you have a mole that becomes elevated, loses color, and looks like the color of regular skin, it is worth visiting your dermatologist’s office, as this can be a form of skin cancer.

Because this type of melanoma skin cancer doesn’t have the classic symptoms of dark and irregular pigment, you might miss it during a routine check of your body for suspicious moles. They may still have asymmetry and an irregular border, two classic symptoms of skin cancer. 

5. Chapped Lips

Long-term sun exposure to the lips can present as chapped lips. However, if it persists and doesn’t go away, it’s time for a trip to the dermatologist. This condition may be actinic cheilitis, and although this is considered pre-malignant, you will want quick action to be taken so that it won’t advance.

The most common symptoms to look for include:

  1. Swelling
  2. Redness
  3. Dryness
  4. Black-brown discolored patches of the lip skin

Some people ask if it’s contagious, and it is not. It is a very treatable condition when caught early enough.

Rule of Thumb: Keep Hypervigilant with your Skin

Remember that The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you examine your skin head to toe every month, especially looking for any new moles or any sign of change in an existing mole. If you spot any change that you consider suspicious, see your dermatologist right away.

And we’ll use this opportunity to remind you of the importance of a good sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher, liberally applied and then reapplied every two hours. You can avoid so many skin cancers with a little bit of common sense and the protection of hats, clothing with SPF, and the proper application of sunscreen. 

We can diagnose and treat any type of skin cancer at the Center for Surgical Dermatology 

Center of Surgical Dermatology is the largest medical and surgical skin treatment and wellness facility in Central Ohio. Since 2007, our board-certified dermatologists, fellowship-trained Mohs surgeons, and caring professional staff have provided patients with effective skincare treatments they can trust in an environment second to none.

Learn more about our state-of-the-art Dermatology Center before booking your appointment today.

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