Skin cancer on the face may appear as an atypical mole, a raised spot, a discolored area, or a dry, scaly patch of skin.

The disease can occur on the face, head, and neck due to sun exposure or other causes. The major types of skin cancer are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

This article looks at the signs and symptoms of skin cancer on the face, types of skin cancers, and prevention tips.

Skin cancer on the face may appear as:

  • a firm, round growth, which may be flesh-colored, brown or black on darker skin, and pearly
  • a scaly, pinkish, or translucent patch of skin
  • a sore that does not heal
  • an atypical mole, which may change in appearance

According to the American Cancer Society, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) usually occurs on the face, head, and neck —areas that commonly have sun exposure. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) usually occurs on the face, ears, lips, neck, and back of the hands.

Melanoma is common on the face and neck. Less commonly, it may affect the eyes and mouth.

Learn about skin cancer on black skin.

The following types of skin cancer may occur on the face, head, or neck area.


BCC is one of the most common types of skin cancer, accounting for around 8 out of 10 cases. It begins in the upper layers of the skin and usually occurs due to sun exposure.

Symptoms of BCC include:

  • small, shiny, or pearly bumps, which may look red, pink, black, brown, or translucent, depending on a person’s skin color, and may have dark areas
  • raised patches, which may itch
  • growths with raised edges and a sunken center, which may have atypical blood vessels resembling the spokes of a wheel
  • open sores, which do not heal — or heal and return — and may ooze or crust
  • pale scar-like areas, which are flat and firm

Learn more about carcinoma.


SCC begins in the upper layer of the skin and usually affects sun-exposed areas. Around 2 out of 10 cases of skin cancer are SCC.

Symptoms of SCC include:

  • red, scaly, or rough patches, which may bleed or crust
  • raised growths, which may have a sunken center
  • open sores which do not heal — or heal and return — and may ooze or crust
  • wart-like growths

Learn more about SCC.


Melanoma occurs when melanocytes, the cells that provide the skin pigment melanin, grow uncontrollably. The condition is a less common type of skin cancer but can be more serious as it can spread more easily to other areas of the body without early treatment.

A key sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin, a spot that changes in appearance, or a spot that looks different from any other skin marks. People can look for the “ABCDE signs”:

  • Asymmetry: One half of a mole or growth looks different from the other half.
  • Border: A growth has irregular, blurred, or uneven edges.
  • Color: A growth has different colors in it, such as different shades of brown or patches of pink, white, or blue.
  • Diameter: A growth is more than 6 millimeters or larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: A growth changes in shape, size, or color.

Other symptoms of melanoma include:

  • a sore that does not heal
  • redness or swelling outside a border of a mole
  • color spreads outside a border of a mole or spot to the surrounding skin
  • itching, tenderness, or pain around a mole
  • a change in the appearance or texture of a mole or growth, such as scaling, oozing, or bleeding

Learn the difference between skin cancer and a mole.

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC)

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Merkel cell carcinoma on the ear. Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany, CC BY 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

MCC is a very rare type of skin cancer that usually occurs on sun-exposed skin, particularly the head, neck, arms, trunk, and legs.

MCC usually appears as one lump on the skin, which is:

Learn more about MCC.

Other rare types of skin cancer include:

  • Kaposi sarcoma
  • sebaceous carcinoma
  • dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
  • undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma
  • extramammary Paget’s disease
  • microcystic adnexal carcinoma


People may be able to reduce their risk of skin cancer by:

  • wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day on sun-exposed skin
  • avoiding peak sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • staying in the shade
  • wearing protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
  • wearing sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays
  • avoiding indoor tanning

The Skin Cancer Foundation advises that people carry out a self-exam to check their skin once a month. Skin cancer is highly treatable when doctors detect it early, so noticing any unusual changes as soon as possible is crucial.

To carry out a self-exam, people can examine every area of their body for atypical changes. A camera, full-length mirror, and hand-held mirror can help people examine all areas.

Learn how the sun causes skin cancer.

People should speak with a doctor if they have the following:

  • any new or atypical growths on the skin
  • a mole or growth that changes in appearance
  • a spot that itches, crusts, or bleeds
  • an open sore that does not heal within 3 weeks

Skin cancer commonly occurs on the face, head, and neck, often due to sun exposure. The condition can affect any part of the body, though, including areas that do not receive sun exposure.

People can carry out a self-exam for any unusual changes once a month. If people notice anything unexpected, they can speak with a doctor who can check the skin for cancer.