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A Visual Guide to Identifying Cancerous Moles: What to Look for in Pictures

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Skin cancer can affect people of all ages, on any part of the body. This is why it's important to be aware of spots and marks of concern by conducting regular skin checks on yourself. 

Knowing what skin changes to look for can help you spot the characteristics of cancerous moles and help with early detection and diagnosis.

Pictures of the 3 main types of cancerous moles 

No two skin cancers look the same. They can be challenging to spot because they can appear on different areas of the body and in different shapes and sizes. While skin cancer pictures can help you to understand what they can look like, it's important to realise skin cancers don't always show the same signs and not all will appear as they do in these photos. 


While most moles are benign, the first sign of melanoma can sometimes be a change in the feel or look of an existing mole. However, it could also be the appearance of a new mole. The appearance of melanoma can vary greatly from person to person, especially taking into consideration factors such as skin tone. Therefore, it's important to remember that melanoma pictures can give you an idea of symptoms, but not all melanomas will appear this way. 

Risk factors: UV exposure, a dysplastic nevus (or atypical mole), fair skin or hair colour, family or personal history of melanoma, suppressed immune system, and the environment in which you live. 

Basal Cell Carcinoma

basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinomas usually appear on parts of the skin that receive a lot of sun exposure, such as the face, arms and legs. They normally begin as small shiny bumps and they can look like a flesh-coloured mole. They can also appear as hard, waxy skin growths or may be shiny or scaly pink or red patches. They can sometimes bleed easily. Basal cell carcinomas account for about 70% of non-melanoma skin cancer disease in Australia. 

Risk factors: Fair skin and hair colour, adults frequently exposed to sunlight (particularly in childhood), having a personal history or family member who has had skin cancer, and/or a suppressed immune system. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma on face

Squamous cell carcinomas usually look like an abnormal skin growth such as a wart, ulcer or mole. They can appear as a scaly red patch and be rough and thick. They may also look like a raised growth with a depression in the middle. Squamous cell carcinoma is sometimes mistaken for a lesion or sore that won't heal. They may or may not bleed and can sometimes cause pain. Around 30% of skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. 

Risk factors: Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds, fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, previous skin cancers or precancerous lesions such as actinic keratosis (sunspots), sunburn, aged over 50 years. 

How to identify cancerous moles

A change in your skin is often the first sign there could be a problem. If you spot something unusual on your skin, see a mole or skin growth changing, or a new bump or lump appears, have it checked by a doctor straight away. 

Use the ABCDE rule

A simple way to remember the warning signs of melanoma is the 'abcde' technique

A. Asymmetry - a difference in the two halves of a mole

B. Border irregularity or spreading edges 

CColor variations

D. Diameter larger than a pencil eraser

E. Evolution or changes in size, shape, or colour

Complete a self-examination

  1. Working in a layer fashion from top to bottom, examine your body carefully. Be careful not to skip any part. 
  2. Begin with the head and scalp. Don't forget to look closely at your nose, eyes, ears and each lip. 
  3. Next, move onto your neck and shoulders. You may need someone to help you look, such as a partner or trusted friend, or use a handheld mirror. Don't forget the back of your neck. 
  4. Closely examine your back, buttocks and sides before working your way around to the chest and stomach. 
  5. Examine your arms next, followed by your hands, including the palms and nails. 
  6. Look at your legs next. Don't forget the back and inside of your leg. 
  7. Leave your feet until last but don't forget to examine the soles of your feet, in between your toes and your nails. 
  8. Note down what you see so that you will have a record if you notice any changes and can raise these with your doctor.  

Schedule a professional skin examination

Did you know that 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime? This is why undergoing regular skin checks is vitally important for your health. 

A photo of a cancerous mole is one thing. Being a picture of health is another. So if you notice anything of concern on your skin that matches the above examples, put your health first and visit a doctor - it could save your life! 

The SunDoctors team are leading the way in skin cancer medicine. They always put patients first and can answer all of your questions, as well as provide you with the most important skin cancer facts. If you have a mole which requires removal, they can inform you of the best treatment options. Put your mind at ease and book an appointment today. 

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