Skin cancer on the leg typically appears as a small raised bump or a dark spot with uneven borders. However, its appearance can vary between individuals depending on a number of factors.

Doctors typically divide skin cancers into different types depending on which cells the cancer affects. The three most common types are:

  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • melanoma

The appearance of skin cancer can vary, depending on the type, size, a person’s skin tone, and where the cancer develops on an individual’s body. However, it usually starts as a change in the skin. This can involve a new growth, such as a freckle or a mole, or changes to an existing growth.

This article looks at skin cancer on the leg, how it appears on the skin, the symptoms, how to prevent it, and more.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The appearance of skin cancer can vary due to skin tone, size, type of skin cancer, and location on a person’s body. Lesions may appear as a new, atypical mole on the skin or a change in existing moles.

People can identify potential melanoma symptoms by using the “ABCDE” method:

  • Asymmetric: Melanoma lesions are typically uneven in shape.
  • Border: The borders of melanoma marks often have no definition or are blurry.
  • Color: Melanoma lesions appear in various shades and colors, including light brown, dark brown, black, blue, gray, pink, and red.
  • Diameter: Most melanoma moles are larger than 6 millimeters in diameter.
  • Evolution: Melanoma lesions change shape, color, or size over weeks, months, or years.

Most skin cancers result from overexposure to UV rays. As a result, the disease is most common in sun-exposed areas such as the neck, arms, and face.

However, the condition can appear anywhere on the body. For example, melanoma commonly appears on the legs in females and on the lower back in males.

Learn more about skin cancer symptoms with pictures.

The most common symptom of skin cancer is a change in the skin or a nonhealing wound. If there is skin discoloration, it may appear pink, red, or brown, depending on a person’s skin tone.

In some cases, these patches may bleed or develop into crusty scabs.

Learn more about the appearance of skin cancer on Black skin.

Melanoma symptoms include:

  • a new lesion or mole, or change in the color, shape, or size of an existing spot or mole
  • a sore that does not heal
  • a pigment that spreads from the border of a spot into the surrounding skin
  • discoloration or a new swelling beyond the border of a spot or mole
  • change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
  • scaliness, oozing or bleeding, or a change in the surface of a mole

Specific symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • shiny, raised growths
  • discolored skin patches with a dip in the center
  • a round growth the same color as the surrounding skin
  • a raised scar-like mark
  • bleeding or oozing sores

Other symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • rough, scaly patches
  • open sores
  • marks that resemble age spots
  • sores in old scars
  • wart-like or horn-like growths

Learn more about the symptoms of skin cancer.

A change in an individual’s skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. A person should talk with a doctor if they notice a new growth, a sore that does not heal, or a change in an existing mole.

Not all skin changes are due to skin cancer. However, a doctor will investigate any changes in a person’s skin to determine the cause.

When someone presents with potential skin cancer symptoms, a doctor will perform a physical examination and take a full medical and family history. They will ascertain when the lesions first appeared, if they have changed in shape or size, whether a person has any related symptoms, and what their risk factors for the disease are.

This assessment can indicate skin cancer and rule out other conditions. If a doctor suspects skin cancer, they will order a skin biopsy, which involves removing and examining a small skin sample. This is the only definitive way to diagnose the condition.


Treatment will depend on the stage and location of the disease. If a doctor diagnoses skin cancer in the leg early, they may be able to remove it with minor surgery.

Other treatment options include:

Learn more about the treatments for skin cancer.

The best way for a person to reduce their risk of skin cancer is by limiting their exposure to UV rays.

People can do this by applying sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, seeking shade, and covering up their legs outdoors. They should also avoid tanning beds and sunlamps to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

Here are some frequently asked questions about skin cancer on the leg:

Is skin cancer common on the legs?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with around 9,500 skin cancer new diagnoses daily. The disease typically appears on sun-exposed areas such as the neck, face, head, and arms. It is less common on the legs, but it can still occur. Melanomas, specifically, commonly appear on the legs of females.

What does melanoma look like on the leg?

Melanoma skin cancer on the leg may look like:

  • spots, sores, moles, or bumps on the skin that change in shape, size, or color
  • red or brown colored scaly skin
  • skin that oozes, bleeds, swells, or may feel painful, itchy, or tender

Additionally, the “ugly duckling” indicator can help identify melanomas. Typically, most of a person’s moles look the same, and any new dissimilar-looking moles, or ugly ducklings, may indicate a melanoma.

The first sign of skin cancer is usually a change in the skin. Sometimes, it can be a new growth, an open sore that does not heal, or a change in an existing mole. Skin cancer is most common in sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the neck, arms, and head. However, it can occur on the legs or anywhere else on the body.

Early detection of skin cancer can improve outcomes. People who wish to reduce their risk of the disease should also practice sun safety and avoid indoor tanning.