Are skin cancer spots painful?

Are skin cancer spots painful? In short, sometimes. Painful or itchy spots can be an indication of skin cancer, but skin cancer lesions are not always painful. What’s important is recognizing the other warning signs of skin cancer so that you can identify a cancerous or pre-cancerous growth should one appear on your skin. 

How common are painful skin cancer lesions?

A study completed at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in 2010 and 2011, found that of 268 patients who had confirmed skin cancer lesions, more than 1/3 reported itchiness and approximately 30 percent reported them as being painful.

Painful lesions were also found to be more likely in non-melanoma skin cancer lesions than in melanoma lesions. Pain prevalence was reported as greatest in squamous cell carcinoma at 42.5%, with pain prevalence in basal cell carcinoma at 19.9% and only 3.7% in melanoma.

In another study published in the Archives of Dermatology, the prevalence of pain in squamous cell carcinoma was found to be 39.8% and 17.7% in basal cell carcinoma.

So while these numbers may not represent the majority of lesions, they nevertheless show that there is a significant chance that skin cancer lesions will be painful.

Knowing the symptoms

To better understand if a painful spot or growth may be cancerous, look for other possible symptoms of skin cancer that may appear alongside the pain, such as:

  • The emergence of new moles or spots
  • Moles or spots that increase in size
  • Moles or spots with blurry edges
  • Moles or spots that change in color or contain multiple colors
  • A mole or spot that becomes raised over time
  • Moles or spots with irregular, rough or ulcerated surfaces
  • Moles or spots that tend to bleed easily
  • Moles or spots that look different from others
  • Any ulcer or broken down part of the skin that does not heal within 4 weeks

> Whether you see any additional symptoms or not, pain alone is a sign that you should have the spot or lesion checked out by your doctor or dermatologist immediately.

Learn more about the symptoms of skin cancer.

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