Is It Skin Cancer Or Just A Mole?

by Cal Cook

It’s common for people to panic when they find themselves with an irregular mole, and wonder if it’s cancer. But what most people don’t know is that there are a variety of harmless skin conditions which can mimic skin cancer. Since misdiagnosing cancer can lead to a variety of unwanted outcomes such as delayed treatment, it’s imperative to stay informed.
Here are a couple of examples to be aware of:

Basal Cell Carcinoma vs. Acne

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It can look as innocuous as a small bump that doesn’t fade away. Acne may also last for weeks or months, so it can be hard to differentiate between the two.

One way to differentiate between skin cancer and acne has to do with visually identifying two cues. Basal cell carcinoma is much more likely to present as an open sore or a scar, It is commonly found on the nose. Acne is more likely to resemble raised red bumps.

Psoriasis vs. Basal/Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Psoriasis is a skin condition that occurs when skin cells are overproduced in the epidermis, leading to scaly red patches on the skin. These patches are often itchy or sting, so patients are likely to go to a dermatologist when afflicted.

The main differentiating factor, in this case, is that psoriasis can affect any area of the body (scalp, hands, elbows), while carcinomas of both types are likely to show up on the face and other sun-exposed surfaces including the ears, neck, and backs of the hands.

Squamous cell carcinoma is slow-growing cancer that often presents as a flat reddish or brownish patch with a rough or crusted surface. It tends to grow slowly and usually occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, ears, neck, lips, and backs of the hands. Cancerous lesions are more likely than psoriasis to present as a color other than red.

Solar Lentigines vs. Melanoma

Since melanoma is the most deadly form of cancer, it’s useful to understand how to differentiate it from this innocuous condition. Solar lentigines are brown marks that appear in sun-exposed areas of the body over the course of a lifetime. UV radiation accelerates the production of melanin in the skin, causing this condition.

Melanoma is also likely to present as brown spots/lesions but is usually wider in diameter than a solar lentigo. If the lesions look similar to other lesions across the body, it’s more likely to be solar lentigines than melanoma, because one of the defining characteristics of melanoma is a lesion that looks different than other spots on the skin.

These three examples prove that the differences between benign conditions and cancer can be minute. It’s useful to arm yourself with information about your skin health, but if you have any moles or bumps on your skin that you’re concerned about, it’s always better to see a professional than to self-diagnose.

Dermatologists can perform a biopsy where they analyze skin tissue under a microscope to determine if it’s cancerous or not. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so even if you think it’s just a mole and not cancer, schedule an appointment to make sure a dermatologist clears it up as well.

Bio: Cal Cook is a health researcher who focuses on lifestyle changes that can positively impact health. He writes for

Read more about cancer-what it is, natural treatments and prevention here.

Source: Skin Cancer/

Comments for Is It Skin Cancer Or Just A Mole?

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Skin Cancer Awareness
by: Valerie

Thanks, Cal, for helping us become more aware of what to look for so we can better identify what is and isn't skin cancer. And I'll echo your warning - better safe than sorry. If a mole or lesion looks suspicious, get it checked out by a dermatologist.

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