Understanding Skin Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Common Myths

Discover comprehensive insights into skin cancer, including its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Learn to identify early signs, explore effective diagnostic techniques, and understand the latest advancements in treatment modalities. Empower yourself with essential knowledge to protect your skin and promote overall well-being.

1/22/20244 min read

woman wearing black scoop neck top
woman wearing black scoop neck top

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a prevalent form of cancer that develops in the skin cells. It occurs when skin cell growth is abnormal, primarily caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. In this article, we will delve into the details of skin cancer, including its immediate symptoms, early diagnosis, available tests, treatment options, prevalence, and common myths surrounding the disease.

Immediate Symptoms of Skin Cancer

The immediate symptoms of skin cancer can vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. However, there are some common signs to watch out for:

  • Unusual changes in the appearance of moles or birthmarks

  • New growths on the skin that do not heal

  • A sore that does not heal

  • Redness or swelling around a mole or growth

  • Itching, tenderness, or pain in a mole or growth

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Early Diagnosis of Skin Cancer

Early diagnosis plays a crucial role in the successful treatment of skin cancer. Regular self-examinations of the skin can help in identifying any changes or abnormalities at an early stage. The ABCDE rule is a useful guideline to identify potential warning signs:

  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole or growth does not match the other half.

  • Border: The mole's edges or growth are irregular, blurred, or poorly defined.

  • Colour: The colour of the mole or growth is not uniform, with variations of shades of brown, black, white, red, or blue.

  • Diameter: The size of the mole or growth is larger than 6 millimetres, or it is growing in size.

  • Evolving: The mole or growth is changing in size, shape, or colour.

If you notice any of these warning signs, it is important to consult a dermatologist for further evaluation and possible biopsy.

Tests for Skin Cancer

When a suspicious mole or growth is identified, a dermatologist may perform various tests to diagnose skin cancer:

  • Skin Biopsy: A small sample of the suspicious area is removed and examined under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous.

  • Dermoscopy: This technique involves using a handheld device called a dermatoscope to examine the skin's surface and identify any abnormal features.

  • Molecular Testing: Molecular tests can help determine the genetic mutations associated with certain types of skin cancer, aiding in diagnosis and treatment decisions.

These tests, along with a thorough examination of the skin, enable healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose skin cancer and determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment Options for Skin Cancer

The treatment options for skin cancer depend on various factors, including the type, stage, and location of the cancer. The most common treatment modalities include:

  • Surgery: Surgical excision is often the primary treatment for localized skin cancer. It involves removing the cancerous growth along with a margin of healthy tissue.

  • Chemotherapy: In some cases, chemotherapy drugs may be used to kill cancer cells or prevent them from multiplying.

  • Radiation Therapy: High-energy radiation is directed at the cancerous cells to destroy them or prevent their growth.

  • Immunotherapy: This treatment modality stimulates the body's immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted drugs are used to block specific molecules or pathways involved in the growth and survival of cancer cells.

The choice of treatment depends on the individual case and is determined by the healthcare team in consultation with the patient.

Prevalence and Fatality of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 3 million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 132,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer each year.

While skin cancer can be serious, the prognosis is generally favourable if detected and treated early. Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, have a high cure rate. Melanoma, although more aggressive, can also be successfully treated if diagnosed in the early stages.

Common Myths about Skin Cancer

There are several common myths surrounding skin cancer that can lead to misunderstandings and misinformation. Let's debunk some of these myths:

  • Myth 1: Only fair-skinned individuals are at risk of skin cancer. While fair-skinned individuals are more susceptible to skin cancer due to lower levels of melanin, people of all skin types can develop skin cancer.

  • Myth 2: Tanning beds are a safer alternative to the sun. Tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation, increasing the risk of skin cancer. They should be avoided.

  • Myth 3: Sunscreen is not necessary on cloudy days. UV radiation can penetrate clouds, so it is important to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days.

  • Myth 4: Once a skin cancer is removed, it will not come back. Skin cancer can recur, so regular follow-up appointments and self-examinations are crucial.

  • Myth 5: Skin cancer is not life-threatening. While most skin cancers have a high cure rate, advanced stages of melanoma can be life-threatening. Early detection and treatment are essential.

It is important to rely on accurate information from reputable sources and consult healthcare professionals for any concerns or questions regarding skin cancer.


Skin cancer is a common form of cancer that can be detected early through regular self-examinations and awareness of its immediate symptoms. Timely diagnosis and treatment significantly increase the chances of successful outcomes. By debunking common myths and understanding the importance of sun protection, we can take proactive steps to prevent and manage skin cancer effectively.