Early Signs of Skin Cancer on the Face

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer found on the human body 2. Anyone at any age can develop skin cancer, although the risk increases if someone is exposed to ultraviolet rays such as from the sun or in a tanning bed 2. The early signs of skin cancer can be identified at home before going to a dermatologist or physician for diagnosis 2. Skin cancer that occurs in the facial area should be treated immediately to prevent further spread of disease and the possibility of scarring 2.

Types of Cancers

There are two main types of skin cancers, melanoma and keratinocyte. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer 2. Melanomas are derived from melanocytes that create the pigment that color the skin, including moles. Melanomas can be found anywhere but especially on the face where sun exposure is the greatest. Melanomas can be treated if detected early but are also one of the deadliest cancers once they spread to other organs in the body.

Keratinocyte cancers are also referred to as squamous cell and basal cell cancers. Although not as aggressive as the melanoma, they can cause scarring and disfigurement because they can grow and invade nearby skin tissue.


With squamous cell and basal cell cancers, it is important to look for any changes of appearance on the skin of the face. This could mean areas that are discolored or maybe darker than usual. It could mean areas that have formed a new blemish or mole. Raised skin areas that appear to be red, pink, translucent or shiny could also be indications of an early sign of skin cancer 2.


Changes of the shape of the skin including dimpling, raised areas or moles expanding in size could be an indication of an early stage of skin cancer 2. Any type of mole that has taken on a different shape or that is bigger than an eraser on a pencil could be an indication of a possible skin cancer 2. If a mole shows asymmetric qualities (one side differs from the other), there is a chance it could be cancerous. If the shape of a mole or discoloration of the skin has any type of jagged edge appearance or has spread to form a new nearby mole this should also be evaluated.

Skin Changes

Anytime there is a sore that doesn’t heal after three months, an evaluation from a family physician or dermatologist is recommended. Excessive itching, even if a mole is not present, could also indicate a skin cancer 2. If a mole begins to present areas that have a clear, oozing liquid forming a crusty surface, this should be evaluated by medical professionals. Areas of the skin on the face that have developed flesh colored bumps or rough spots could also be an indication of a possible basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma.


Once the physician has performed a physical exam including examining the lymph nodes and other areas of skin around the facial area, she may decide to perform a skin biopsy to confirm a cancer diagnosis 2. For early-onset melanoma and other forms of skin cancer that are localized to one area, the mole or skin cancer will have to be removed, possibly without further treatment 12. For melanoma that is presumed to be widespread, further imaging tests and biopsies may need to be conducted as well as chemotherapy or radiation.