White spots on the skin are rarely a sign of skin cancer and may instead link to other conditions. However, it is important to carefully examine the color and other changes to a spot because enlarged white, pinkish, or red moles and wounds that won’t heal can signify skin cancer.
White spots on the skin may link to a variety of health conditions. They are not usually a cause for concern and often eventually fade over time.
However, if a white spot on the skin lasts longer than several weeks and a person experiences other symptoms such as pain or intense itching, they should contact a doctor.
A doctor can help determine the cause and advise a person about their options for treatment. They may also perform an assessment of the skin to determine if a more serious condition, such as skin cancer, is causing the marks.
This article explains if white spots are signs of skin cancer, the other conditions that may cause white spots, the early signs of skin cancer, and more. It also answers common questions about white spots on the skin.
Many people experience white spots on their skin at some point during their lives.
White spots on the skin can be symptoms of several common skin conditions that cause hypopigmentation, which is when the skin makes less pigment. These include:
In some of the conditions above, the white spot or mole can appear to have shades of pink, red, and brown on paler skin.
Vitiligo, in particular, is more noticeable in people with darker skin tones because the contrast between their natural skin color and the lighter area makes the white patches stand out.
In most cases, white spots are not a cause for concern and do not require medical treatment. However, people should see a dermatologist, who can check for early signs of skin cancer if the spot:
- remains after a few weeks of basic treatment
- continuously reappears
- spreads to other parts of the body
- causes symptoms such as pain, itchiness, or weeping
A type of nonmelanoma cancer — basal cell carcinoma — can present as a pearly white or clear bump. It may have a translucent or waxy appearance.
White and brown spots, marks, and moles can be harmless. However, an early symptom of skin cancer may occur in what doctors call an atypical mole, or dysplastic nevi.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using the ABCDE method to check for signs of a cancerous mole:
- A — Asymmetry: If it has an irregular shape, this can be an early indication of melanoma.
- B — Border: The edges of a harmless mole are even and smooth. If a mole has a jagged border or uneven edges, it can signify skin cancer.
- C — Color: Harmless moles are a single shade and usually brown. Cancerous moles can cause differentiation in color.
- D — Diameter: Normal moles tend to be smaller than dangerous ones. Cancerous moles are usually around 6 millimeters (mm) across.
- E — Evolving: If a mole starts to change, or evolve, this can be a warning sign. Changes may involve shape, color, or elevation of the skin. Alternatively, a mole may start to bleed, itch, or crust.
White spots on the skin are not always a sign of cancer. It is more likely they have another cause.
The following slideshow presents images of white spots on the skin, attributing them to both cancerous and noncancerous conditions.
If a person wishes to view more signs of skin cancer, the American Cancer Society provides an
White spots are usually noncancerous skin lesions.
However, if a person has any moles, spots, or other marks on their skin that are new or changing, they should contact a medical professional for examination.
Here are some answers to questions about white spots on the skin and if they signify skin cancer.
Can melanoma look like a white spot?
Most times, melanoma first develops as a mole with color. However, some types, such as amelanotic melanomas, are missing the dark pigment melanin, which gives most moles their color.
This type of melanoma can appear as a white, pinkish, red, or flesh-colored spot.
What does stage 1 skin cancer look like?
The stage of cancer refers to if and how far the cancer has spread.
Stage 1 is part of the
This means the cancer is only in the skin and there is no sign that it has spread to a person’s lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
What does a carcinoma spot look like?
Carcinoma spots are a type of skin cancer that can appear as lesions rather than moles.
Basal cell carcinoma can occur in a shiny bump of almost any color — but most commonly pearly white, clear, and pink. Squamous cell carcinoma sometimes appears as a crusty patch or bleeding, open sore.
White spots on the skin can result from a variety of skin conditions and are usually harmless. The most common white spots are idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis, usually a result of sun exposure.
However, skin cancers can also develop due to repeated, unprotected exposure to the sun and other sources of UV radiation, such as tanning beds.
The most common sign of skin cancer is a change in the skin. This can be a new growth, an open sore that does not heal, or a change in an existing mole.
It is important that a person checks their skin regularly and knows how to recognize signs of skin cancer.
This way, they can seek medical help early and get treatment if necessary. People who wish to reduce their risk of skin cancer should practice sun safety and avoid indoor tanning.