Ask a Top Doctor: Is This Bump Skin Cancer?

Top doctor and dermatologist at Riddle Memorial Hospital Leonard Dzubow shares how to spot the all-too-common killer

If you’ve ever found yourself inspecting a spot on your skin unsure if what you’re looking at is skin cancer or just a little blemish, you’re not alone. “There are three main types of skin cancer and each type has multiple appearances,” says Leonard Dzubow, a Top Doctor and dermatologist at Riddle Memorial Hospital, noting that skin cancer can appear as anything from a pimple-like, pearly, hard little bump with a network of blood vessels to a crusty or scaly flat patch of skin to an irregular-looking, multicolored mole. “The problem is that people think skin cancer will look ominous and most skin cancers don’t start out that way. They are often painless—only when cancers are advanced do they start to scab and bleed. So sadly people often miss the opportunity to catch a skin cancer early, which can result in everything from disfiguration to death.”

But that doesn’t meant you need to freak every time a new freckle pops up on your skin. “The key word is ‘change,’” says Dzubow. “Anything that was there before but now looks different should be checked by a doctor, and a new skin mark or blemish that you aren’t sure what it is should be given a month or a month and a half to go away. If it doesn’t, have a doctor look at it.”

Just keep in mind that telling whether or not a skin blemish is a problem merely by looking at it can be just as hard for doctors at times. “If your family doctor isn’t 100 percent sure what it is, see a dermatologist or press for a biopsy,” says Dzubow. “A biopsy is the only way to know for sure what you’re dealing with. It’s amazing how many people are given a false sense of security about a cancerous bump from their doctor.”