Published on 9 March 2022

    “How do I know if I have skin cancer? Are my moles a sign of skin cancer?” If these are questions that you’re asking yourself, you’re actually on the right track with the right mind set. Skin cancers, when detected early, are usually treatable. So, what are the early signs of skin cancer that you can look out for – in yourself and your family? 

    Dr Adeline Yong, Associate Consultant, Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, National University Hospital (NUH), shared some common signs to look out for to detect skin cancers early.


    “Growths and lumps on your skin or your nail (yes, you can get nail cancer!) can either be benign (nice) or malignant (nasty). Not all dark and large skin lumps are bad. In fact, these lumps growing on your skin can be normal as we age,” said Dr Yong. However, you should make a trip to the doctor if you find the lumps on your skin bleeding, with open sores, or if you have scaly crusted red patches that are itchy and bleeding.

    In a nutshell, if you have a lump that’s rapidly growing, painful, bleeding, and changing in colour over time, you should definitely get them checked out. 

    Sun loving lifestyle

    All the above physical signs and warnings aside, you’ll also need to take into consideration your lifestyle. If you’re frequently working or being under the sun, love running, cycling, or playing outdoor sports, hanging out with your friends at the beach club and tanning studios, you are at higher risk of melanoma (skin cancer).

    Family history and Genetics

    Not fond of the outdoors? Then, do also consider if your family has any history of skin cancers or inherited conditions such as extreme light sensitivity (photosensitivity), as these can predispose an individual to having an increased risk of skin cancers. In addition, you may have a higher risk of skin cancers if you or your family have genetically fair skin, or if you have a weakened immune system.


    Moles come in various colours, ranging from brown, black, pink, blue, or skin-coloured (your natural skin colour). They may also be flat or raised and protruding. The majority of our moles appear first in childhood, grow over time, and can disappear over time – they can also be affected by external environmental factors such as sun exposure or certain medications that you’re taking. So, how do you know if your moles may be a sign of skin cancer? The answer is simple: change.

    When it comes to moles, you can regularly check them at home with the ‘ABCDE’ rule – Asymmetrical shape, uneven Borders, multiple Colours, Diameter (growing bigger), and Evolution of size, shape, and colour. Any of these five signs should prompt you to visit the doctor.

    Remember, skin cancers are treatable if they’re detected and removed early. If there’s one thing you should keep in mind, it’s the ‘ABCDE’ rule – it doesn’t take more than a minute to check out your skin in the mirror every now and then.

    In consultation with Dr Adeline Yong, Associate Consultant, Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, NUH.


    Related Articles