Spotting skin cancer early

Finding skin cancer early saves lives, so it’s important to know the signs and see your doctor about any unusual or persistent changes to your skin.

It’s generally a good idea to be aware of how your skin normally looks so you’ll be more likely to notice changes that could be signs of skin cancer. If you spot a change such as a new mole, or any moles, freckles or patches of normal skin that change in size, shape or colour, it’s worth getting it checked out by a doctor, even if you don’t think it’s anything to worry about. It may well not be skin cancer, but if it is, getting it diagnosed and treated early could make a real difference to the outcome.  

The ABCD (Asymmetry, Border, Colour, Diameter) rule can help you remember some key changes to look out for

ABCD rule

Asymmetry The two halves of the mole do not look the same.
Border The edges of the mole are irregular, blurred or jagged.
Colour The colour of the mole is uneven, with more than one shade.
Diameter The mole is wider than 6mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser).

Other signs of skin cancer:

  • a new growth or sore that won't heal,
  • a spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts,
  • or a mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs.

If you notice any unusual or persistent changes to your skin, make an appointment to see your doctor. This is particularly important for people who are at an increased risk of skin cancer, such as those with fair skin, lots of moles or freckles, red or fair hair, a history of sunburn and/or a personal or family history of skin cancer.

If you have questions about cancer or would like to talk things through, you can call our information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday.