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A Nose for Trouble: Recognising Signs of Skin Cancer on the Nose

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The nose is a common place to suffer sunburn. It often sticks out beyond our hats and sunglasses, and it's this frequent UV exposure that is the leading cause of skin cancer. 

Our nose is one of the first things people notice about us. So getting skin cancer on the nose may cause you to worry about how it will be treated. Will it require surgery that will leave a scar?

And more importantly, how do you recognise what can be a microscopic disease, such as skin cancer, on an area of our bodies that's so prominent? Read on to learn about the warning signs to help you recognise skin cancer on the nose. 

What is skin cancer on the nose?

Statistically, skin cancer on the nose is most likely to be one of two types of non-melanoma skin cancer - Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer found on the nose because it's an area on your body that receives a lot of sun exposure. These slow-growing cancers rarely spread to other parts of the body if detected early. 

Types of skin cancer that may appear on the nose

Causes and risk factors 

  • Frequent exposure to UV rays 
  • A large number of moles and freckles 
  • A family history of skin cancer 
  • Lighter hair and skin colour 
  • A personal history of skin cancer 
  • A history of sunburns 
  • A suppressed immune system 
  • Older age 

Follow these tips for preventing skin cancer on the nose and other parts of the face. 

How common is skin cancer on the nose?

Because our noses receive a large amount of sun exposure, skin cancer on this part of the face is relatively common. It also has a high incidence of recurrence

Skin cancers can affect people of all ages and from all walks of life. Even popular celebrities such as actor Hugh Jackman and former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner have undergone surgery to remove Basal Cell Carcinomas from their noses. 

What does skin cancer look like on the nose?

When it appears on your nose, a basal cell carcinoma can be mistaken for something harmless such as a sore, scar, pimple or freckle. They can often look like nothing more than a transparent bump. Sometimes it can be a small red or yellow sore or patch that can be scratched away or refuses to heal.

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9 Signs of skin cancer on the nose

1. A sore that does not heal

The sore may appear to crust over and heal and then return. You may also notice bleeding or oozing. 

2. A small, pink growth or nodule 

The pink colour can be caused by small dilated blood vessels. 

3. Black or brown sores 

Dead cells can cause the appearance of dark or brown lesions in cancerous areas on the nose.  

4. A shiny or clear bump 

A shiny or translucent bump that can also have tiny blood vessels running through it.

5. A 'new' scar 

A lesion that looks like a scar or could be white, waxy or yellow. 

6. A red patch or irritation

These red or irritated patches of skin can become crusty or itchy. They could indicate the presence of Bowen's disease or Squamous Cell Carcinoma in situ. This is a very early form of skin cancer that is easy to treat. 

7. Pain or tenderness

You might be wondering, does skin cancer hurt on the nose? The answer is not straightforward. Some skin cancer patients feel pain and tenderness, while others do not. 

8. Change in a mole 

A change in an old mole could indicate melanoma. See the 'abcde' technique to learn more about melanoma symptoms.  

9. A new spot or growth 

This could be a precancerous spot such as actinic keratosis (sunspot), which can indicate sun damage.  

How to check for skin cancer on the nose

The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding a potentially disfiguring surgery

Look for changes to the colour, size and shape of existing moles, spots or skin growths. Keep in mind the 9 signs of skin cancer listed above.  Also, keep an eye out for the appearance of new growths. 

When to see a doctor 

If you notice a suspicious looking spot or patch on your skin, see a doctor straight away. It's important not to wait until your next skin check to mention anything of concern. Most cases of skin cancer are highly curable, particularly when they are detected at an early stage. 

Treatment options for skin cancer on the nose

If your doctor suspects you may have skin cancer on the nose, the first step in treating it is usually a skin biopsy. This is where a small amount of skin cells are taken for further testing so your doctor can determine what type of skin cancer it is and if it has spread. 

If a biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, the lesion may require removal. One of the most common treatments for facial skin cancers is Mohs surgery. Other treatment options include radiation therapy, cryotherapy, immunotherapy and topical chemotherapy. 

Remember, the earlier you start treatment, the more successful it is likely to be and the lower your risk of scarring. You can also talk to your doctor about scar treatments and options to minimise the effect of treatment on your appearance. 

It is never too late for a skin cancer check

SunDoctors clinics are located all around Australia. The doctors are highly trained in skin cancer detection and diagnosis and pride themselves on providing a thorough and comfortable experience for patients. Book online now or by calling 13 SKIN (13 75 46). 

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