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Top 5 Conditions Often Mistaken For Skin Cancer

Finding a new bump or growth on your skin can be worrisome, particularly if you are a person that is concerned about the health of their skin. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and in Australia alone we have more than 13,000 cases diagnosed every year. Therefore, there are many reasons to be cautious and check your skin regularly.

You might also want to check what is skin cancer before you proceed.

The good news however is that there are many skin conditions that are often mistaken for skin cancer, that are in fact just benign growths. Telling the difference however often takes years of training, so it is always a good idea to check with your dermatologist to properly diagnose the growth.

To help put things into perspective here are 5 skin conditions that are often mistaken for skin cancer:


Psoriasis is a skin condition that is believed to be related to an immune system problem, which causes T cells to attack healthy skin cells by accident. This stimulates the production and life cycle of skin cells and causes cells to build up on the surface of the skin in a way that can often be mistaken for skin cancer. Symptoms of psoriasis include red patches of skin with silvery scales, small scaling spots, and dry cracked skin.

Seborrheic Keratoses (Benign tumour)

Seborrheic Keratoses is the most common benign tumour of the skin. While there are many theories, the exact cause is unknown, however, often it can look very similar to skin cancer and present itself as scaly, brown and greasy growths on the skin. Treatment of this growth is normally unnecessary but can be performed if it is pruritic, irritated or inflamed. If the dermatologist is unsure that it is a benign tumour they might also ask for a biopsy to test it.

Sebaceous hyperplasia

Sebaceous glands are small glands that grow near hair follicles, and function as a source of the oily, waxy matter that lubricates and waterproofs the skin and hair. When this gland becomes enlarged they can form into a small yellow or flesh coloured papules which can resemble basal cell carcinomas. For the most part these growths are not dangerous and are only removed for cosmetic purposes.

Nevus (mole)

Moles, also known as nevi, are one of the most common growths that people find on their skin. Growing mostly in early adulthood these are some of the growths most commonly mistaken for melanomas. Melanomas are often identified by being asymmetrical, having an irregular border, being unevenly coloured and being larger than 6mm. These signs however can also present themselves in atypical moles, which can be completely benign. Therefore, it is always important to check any new atypical mole with your dermatologist for accurate diagnosis.

Cherry angioma

Cherry angiomas are benign vascular growths that present themselves as bright cherry red bumps on the skin, normally growing on the trunk of the body. They usually appear on people over the age of 40 and are caused by overgrowth of blood vessels. While they can look like moles or even be mistaken for skin cancer they are completely benign and are only removed for cosmetic purposes.