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Top 5 Conditions Often Mistaken For Skin Cancer

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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 your skin. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, and in Australia alone, we have more than 13,000 cases diagnosed annually. 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 many skin conditions are often mistaken for skin cancer that is, 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.

Five skin conditions that are often mistaken for skin cancer

1. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition 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 skin's surface 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.

Arm covered with Psoriasis

2. Seborrheic Keratoses (Benign tumour)

Seborrheic Keratoses are the most common benign tumour of the skin. While there are many theories, the exact cause is unknown. However, it can often look very similar to skin cancer and present 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.

Lots of moles on a person's neck area

3. Sebaceous hyperplasia

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

Close-up of Seborrheic Keratoses on a scalp

4. Nevus (mole)

Moles, also known as nevi, are among the most common growths people find on their skin. Growing mostly in early adulthood, these are some 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, checking any new atypical mole with your dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis is always important.

Mole being pinched between fingers

5. Cherry angioma

Cherry angiomas are benign vascular growths as bright cherry-red bumps on the skin, normally growing on the body's trunk. They usually appear in people over 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.

Close-up of Cherry angioma on someone's skin

Identifying Cancerous Moles

Learn what skin changes to look for to spot the characteristics of cancerous moles by reading our article A Visual Guide to Identifying Cancerous Moles: What to Look for in Pictures.

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