Detect skin cancer from pictures

Detect skin cancer from pictures

There are two forms of skin cancer: white and black skin cancer (malignant melanoma). You can find out how you can recognize skin cancer and what role the ABCDE rule plays in this with the help of the pictures in this photo series.

The main risk factor for skin cancer is UV radiation from the sun. White or black skin cancer usually also forms on the so-called sun terraces, i.e. the parts of the body that are particularly frequently exposed to direct sunlight. This includes the entire head and neck area, the shoulders, the décolleté and the back.

The treacherous thing about skin cancer is that those affected usually do not feel any physical symptoms. The diagnosis is often made as part of skin cancer screening or when those affected discover altered skin areas or moles. The ABCDE rule also helps here.

How do you know if it’s a mole or melanoma?

Whether a mole is a suspicious candidate can be determined using the ABCD(E) rule:

  • A for asymmetry
  • B for Limit
  • C for color
  • D for diameter
  • E for magnitude

This photo series cannot replace a visit to a doctor and is only intended to provide you with information if you notice skin changes. If you are still determining what could be behind the changes, seek medical advice early.

Skin cancer: A for asymmetry

According to the ABCDE rule, if a mole is no longer around, but one half looks different, this can indicate malignant melanoma. An asymmetrical shape is typical of black skin cancer: the mole is unevenly round, oval or elongated or has changed its previously symmetrical shape. In any case, it is better to consult a dermatologist early on.

Skin cancer: B for limitation

According to the ABCDE rule, if the patch of skin has uneven edges or a blurred or jagged border, this can indicate skin cancer. A frayed mole can also be a sign of malignant melanoma.

Skin cancer: C for colour

Look for patches of skin that are coloured differently and not evenly. Black skin cancer may have lighter and darker gradients or areas within the skin patch. Pink, grey or black dots are also possible. All such changes fall under the “C” criterion for the colour of the ABCDE rule.

Skin cancer: D for diameter

In addition to shape and colour, the size of skin spots also plays a role: liver spots and skin spots that are larger than five millimetres in diameter or have the shape of a hemisphere should be examined by a dermatologist. However, this rule of thumb does not apply exclusively because there is also skin cancer that has a smaller diameter.

Skin cancer: E for sublime

The last criterion of the ABCDE rule states that a mole that protrudes more than a millimetre above the skin can indicate skin cancer. This criterion is difficult to recognize, as regular liver spots can also protrude. If the surface of the raised skin patch is rough, inflamed, flaking, or changing, it is better to seek medical advice.

Skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma, also known as basalioma or basal cell cancer, is a type of white skin cancer and is the most common type of skin cancer. Unlike many other types of cancer, basal cell carcinoma rarely metastasizes.

In most cases, basal cell carcinoma develops on skin areas on sun terraces, often exposed to direct sunlight. The nose, forehead, cheeks, eyelids, pinna and scalp are most affected.

Basal cell cancer usually appears initially as skin-coloured or reddish nodules in which tiny blood vessels can be seen. These knots get bigger over time and then collapse in the middle, creating a crater. Crusts can form. There is no preliminary stage for this type of cancer.

Skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma, also known as spinalioma, is also a form of white skin cancer and the second most common type of skin cancer overall. It forms in the epidermis, i.e. the top layer of skin, and if left untreated, it grows into the skin layer below.

In contrast to basalioma, squamous cell carcinoma has a more significant potential for metastasis, so this type of skin cancer can spread to other organs.

A squamous cell carcinoma initially appears as red, scaly or fixed, calloused areas of skin. If you scratch them, the areas may bleed. Over time, skin growths that have a cauliflower-like warty shape can form. The precursors of squamous cell carcinoma are actinic keratosis and Bowen’s disease.

Actinic keratosis as a precursor to white skin cancer

Actinic keratosis is a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma that only affects the upper layers of the skin and cannot yet form metastases. Nevertheless, all preliminary stages of skin cancer should be treated early before they develop further.

Initially, actinic keratosis appears as rough patches that are easier to feel than see because they are as fierce as sandpaper. Later, these areas develop into skin-coloured to reddish or even yellow-brownish, crusted plaques, i.e. bumps on the skin that curve upwards. Actinic keratosis can occur singly or accumulate as a patchy skin lesion. Pain, itching or burning may occasionally occur.

Bowen’s disease: an early form of white skin cancer

A rarer precursor of squamous cell carcinoma is Bowen’s disease. This results in sharply defined and unevenly shaped changes on the skin, which are the size of a coin or the size of the palm of a hand, and it appears reddish-brown and scaly to crusty. Over time, more crusts or superficially weeping knots form.

The skin changes do not itch and often only appear in one area, distinguishing them from other skin diseases such as psoriasis (psoriasis). In contrast to the skin cancer that develops later, this preliminary stage only affects the outer layers of the skin.

Skin cancer in unusual places

The most common places where skin cancer forms are the so-called sun terraces. Certain body parts are often exposed to the sun and its harmful UV radiation. These are mainly regions in the head and neck area and the back of the foot:

  • scalp (without hair)
  • vertex
  • nose bridge
  • eye area
  • cheeks
  • ears
  • Lips
  • Shoulders
  • the back
  • cleavage
  • instep

In addition, skin cancer can also develop in other places, such as in the eyes, on the soles of the feet, in the buttock fold or under the toenail. Therefore, examine yourself regularly from head to toe for skin changes.

Lip Cancer: Skin cancer on the lip

The lips are one of the places where skin cancer often occurs, especially on the lower lip. Most of these are squamous cell carcinomas, i.e. white skin cancer.

In the early stages, these lip carcinomas usually appear as rough, calloused, scaly areas on the lip, also known as actinic cheilitis (actinic keratosis of the lip) and can be accompanied by a burning sensation. Uneven patches or non-wipeable, whitish changes in the lips’ red (i.e. the outer red area of ​​the lips) are also possible. These changes are called leukoplakia.

Later, the squamous cell carcinoma shows up as a crusted ulcer on the lip with a hard, raised border. The site may be painful or bleed.

Basal cell carcinomas can also occur on the lip, both on the lower and upper lip. In addition to white skin cancer, lip cancer can also result from malignant melanoma, which appears in the form of brown or black spots on the lip. Depending on the location, lip tumours are assigned to either skin or oral cavity cancer.


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