The Surprising Skin Cancer Symptom Your Doctor Shouldn’t Ignore

A new analysis of more than 260 patients from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center finds a surprising symptom associated with skin cancer — itchy skin. All told, 37 percent of the patients who’d been diagnosed with skin cancer reported having the urge to scratch. The symptom was even more common than pain, which affected only 28 percent of the study’s participants.

But does this mean that all itchy moles are breeding grounds for cancer cells? Absolutely not.

Study authors stress that their findings have two major implications on the way skin cancer is diagnosed and treated. For one thing, different symptoms can potentially give some indication of what type of skin cancer—melanoma, squamous cell or basal cell—it is, and can help doctors determine whether a particular mole needs to be biopsied.

“A simple bedside assessment for the presence and intensity of pain or itch is an easily implementable tool for physicians evaluating suspicious skin lesions,” study authors write.

Signs of skin cancer

There are, of course other signs that could indicate that that suspicious spot on your back is something to have a dermatologist take a look at. And with 3.5 million cancer cases diagnosed each year in the United States, it’s vital to know what to watch out for.

Moles that exhibit noticeable changes in size, shape or color, and/or begin to bleed could be cancerous. Skin lesions with an irregular shape or a crusty exterior may also be cause for concern.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a monthly full-body self-check for concerning blemishes. Be thorough during your check, and examine often overlooked areas such as the spaces between your toes and the inside of your mouth. Keep an eye out for the ABCDEs of melanoma: asymmetry, border irregularity, color variability, diameter larger than six mm, and evolution (change in shape, size, color, etc.). And don’t forget the ugly duckling concept, which says that if a particular skin lesion appears drastically different in size, shape or color than the spots around it, then it may be worth seeking a professional assessment.

Summer sun safety tips for skin

As the summer season draw countless Americans to sun-soaked beaches and parks, keeping in mind a few, simple sun safety tips is key:

Hats are everyones best friend: Broad-brimmed hats are especially important for those who are bald or have thinner hair.

Stay stocked with SPF: It’s helpful to apply sunscreen well in advance of a summer outing—about 30 minutes often does the trick. And don’t forget to reapply every two-three hours is you’re sweating a lot or plan to take a dip in the pool or the ocean.

Dont forget your eyes: Excess sun exposure can also damage the eyes and the fragile skin of the eyelids. Different lenses are best for different activities. Hunters, skiers, fishermen and boat-enthusiasts might want to opt for polarized, mirror-coated or blue-blocking lenses that can effectively reduce glare from water and snow. Regardless of lens type, sunglasses should have wide lenses, wrap around, and be capable of blocking 99 or 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.11 months ago

Yes indeed, interesting...

Azaima A.
Azaima A.about a year ago


John B.
John B.about a year ago

Thanks for sharing this important information.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Croweabout a year ago

I have a mole the size of a half a dollar on my leg. When I asked my doctor about it, he said it was not cancerous, but he could remove it if I wanted him to. It doesn't itch or hurt, but I'm afraid I'm going to cut it when I shave my legs. He said to keep it moist, and it will eventually just come off a little piece at a time!

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinezabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing the reminders. Need to be mindful of skin cancer since many of us grew up in a time when sunscreen just wasn't. All those summer sunburns have come back to haunt us!

Anna Wang
Anna Meng Wangabout a year ago


Judy Apelis
Judy Apelisabout a year ago

Noted, thank you!

Lynn Rubal
Lynn Rubalabout a year ago

Thank you for the great info.

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagleabout a year ago

Good advice. A person needs to protect themselves from the sun.

Donna F.
Donna F.about a year ago

ty for this important article!