Recognising the Signs of Skin Cancer: When to Seek Expert Care

Your skin is the body’s largest organ, shielding you from the elements and daily wear and tear.

However, it’s also vulnerable to various conditions, including skin cancer.

This is of particular concern given Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Understanding the signs and symptoms of this disease is crucial for early detection and effective treatment.

Here’s a guide to help recognise potential warning signs and knowing when it’s time to consult a doctor trained in skin cancer diagnosis and management.

Understanding Skin Cancer:

Skin cancer occurs when abnormal skin cells grow uncontrollably. This can occur at any stage in life but is particularly prevalent with advancing age. The number one risk factor is UV exposure.

There are many different types of skin cancer, the three most common include basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Each may present distinct symptoms and characteristics.

General Rules for checking you skin:

New and Changing Lesions: This is key!

  1. Monitor Changes: Keep an eye on any new spots or lesions on your skin. Changes in size, shape, colour, or texture should prompt a closer examination.
  2. ABCDE Rule: Use the ABCDE rule as a guideline for self-examinations:
    • Asymmetry: One half of the mole or spot doesn’t match the other.
    • Border irregularity: Edges are blurred, notched, or uneven.
    • Colour: Different shades of brown, black, or other colours within the same spot.
    • Diameter: Larger than the size of a pencil eraser (6mm).
    • Evolving: Changes in size, shape, colour, or elevation over time.
  3. Itching or Bleeding: Lesions that itch, bleed, or don’t heal should be evaluated promptly.
  4. Regular Check-ups: Schedule regular skin checks, especially if you have a history of skin cancer or are at higher risk due to factors like fair skin, excessive sun exposure, immunocompromise or significant family history of skin cancer.

Types of skin cancer – Signs and Symptoms:

Basal Cell Carcinoma:

  • Pearly or waxy bump: Often looks like a shiny, translucent bump.
  • Flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion: Can be mistaken for a scar.
  • Pink growth with raised borders: May bleed, develop a crust or ulcer.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma:

  • Rough, scaly red patch: Often appears on sun-exposed areas.
  • Firm, raised nodule: Could develop into an open sore.
  • Persistent, non-healing sore: May crust, bleed, or ooze.


  • Irregular mole or spot: Asymmetric shape, uneven borders, varying colors.
  • Changes in an existing mole: Enlargement, color change, itching, or bleeding.
  • Dark streaks or lines within nails: May indicate melanoma in nail beds.

By staying aware of the signs and knowing when to seek expert care, you empower yourself in the fight against skin cancer.

When to See Your Doctor:

Prevention and early detection play pivotal roles in managing skin cancer. Regular self-examinations and professional skin checks are invaluable in catching potential issues early. Remember, taking proactive steps toward your skin’s health can make a substantial difference in your overall well-being.

Dr Justin Evans consulting a patient

At Bellarine Medical Aesthetics, Dr Justin Evans is an experienced GP specialising in skin cancer detection, treatment, and prevention. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a comprehensive skin evaluation or if you have any concerns about your skin’s health. Your skin deserves the best care.

Stay vigilant, stay healthy!