Clinical Presentation of Skin Cancer

Clinical Presentation of Skin Cancer

By SERO Staff

Clinical Presentation of Skin Cancers

While the appearance of any one skin cancer can vary, there are general physical presentations that can be used in screening. Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) most commonly have a pearly rim or can appear somewhat eczematous. They often ulcerate. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) frequently have a thick keratin top layer. Both BCCs and SCCs are associated with a history of sun-damaged skin. Melanomas are characterized by asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, a diameter of more than 6 mm, and evolution (ABCDE criteria). Photographs representing typical clinical presentations of these cancers are shown below.

Basal cell carcinomas

Photographs showing a pink, scaly lesion on the skin (left panel) and flesh-colored nodules on the skin (right panel).
Superficial basal cell carcinoma (left panel) and nodular basal cell carcinoma (right panel).
Photographs showing a red, ulcerated lesion on the skin of the face (left panel) and a red, ulcerated lesion surrounded by a white border on the skin of the back of the right ear (right panel).
Ulcerated basal cell carcinoma (left panel) and ulcerated basal cell carcinoma with characteristic pearly rim (right panel).

Squamous cell carcinomas

Photographs showing a pink, raised lesion on the skin of the face (left panel) and on the skin of the leg (right panel).
Squamous cell carcinoma on the face with thick keratin top layer (left panel) and squamous cell carcinoma on the leg (right panel).

Melanomas

Photographs showing a brown lesion with a large and irregular border on the skin (panel 1); large, asymmetrical, red and brown lesions on the skin (panels 2 and 3); and an asymmetrical, brown lesion on the skin on the bottom of the foot (panel 4).
Melanomas with characteristic asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, and large diameter.
Images and information furnished by cancer.gov.