Skin Cancer

The Differences Between Benign, Premalignant and Malignant Lesions

A skin lesion may be classified as benign, premalignant or malignant. Classifying a lesion as such is vital to your health. Dr. Carroll provides an accurate diagnosis based on the appearance of the lesion and the patient’s clinical history. Based on the diagnosis, a biopsy may be required.

Most common skin lesions such as moles and tags are benign. A premalignant or precancerous skin lesion carries carries an increased risk of cancer. Malignant skin lesions must be treated immediately. Knowing the similarities and differences between these lesions allows Dr. Carroll to make a proper diagnosis.

Any changing growths on the skin, including change in color, shape or size, should be seen by a Dermatologist as soon as possible. If a lesion is new, starts bleeding or is painful, it can be a sign of a cancerous or pre-cancerous lesion, and it must be evaluated immediately.

Common Skin Cancer Types

Actinic Keratosis (AK)

  • Dry, scaly patches or spots that are precancerous growths
  • Common with people who have fair skin
  • Usually forms on areas of the skin that receive more sun exposure, such as the head, neck, hands and forearms
  • Important to treat as AK can progress to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

  • Most common type of skin cancer
  • Flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or pinkish patch
  • Common in people who have fair skin, yet they can occur in people with darker skin
  • Usually form on the skin after years of sun exposure or indoor tanning
  • Common on the head, neck, and arms, yet can form anywhere on the body, including the chest, abdomen and legs
  • Important to treat as BCC can invade surrounding tissue and grow into nerves and bones.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

  • Second most common type of skin cancer
  • Red, firm bump, scaly patch or sore that heals and reopens.
  • Common in people who have light skin, yet SCC can develop in darker-skinned people
  • Usually form on skin that gets frequent sun exposure (rim of ear, face, neck, arms, chest and back)
  • Can grow deep in the skin and cause damage and disfigurement
  • Early treatment can prevent damage and stop SCC from spreading to other areas of the body.


  • Deadliest form of skin cancer
  • Appears in a mole or suddenly appears as new dark spot on skin
  • Early treatment is crucial
  • Knowing the melanoma ABCDE warning signs to detect melanoma early.

Use the A B C D E guide to detect moles or lesions; however, it should not replace regular skin cancer screening or physician’s examination.

ABCDE rule for early detection of melanoma