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5 subtle indications that you could have skin cancer

Your doctor hasn't diagnosed you with skin cancer yet, but you can't help feeling nervous. Sometimes, you're almost paranoid. You know that cancer is often easiest to cure if it's caught early, so you don't want a delayed diagnosis to put you months or even years behind.

This can especially be an issue if cancer begins to spread. If not, localized treatments of skin cancer often work. Knowing that you have the disease as soon as you have it is important.

Now, all signs of cancer aren't obvious. Below are a few subtle signs that you and your doctor should look out for.

1. Long-lasting pimples.

People sometimes confuse skin cancer for a standard pimple. The difference, though, is that it may not go away. When it persists, especially if you're treating it, that could mean it's not acne after all.

2. Dark spots on your fingernails.

If you're cutting or painting your fingernails and you notice what appears to be a dark smear that you can't rub off, you should know that some types of skin cancer may form in the nail matrix or the nail bed. This is where the fingernail itself grows from, and so the dark spots then show up on the nail. Don't assume it's not an indicator of skin cancer just because it's not on your skin.

3. Minor changes in long-term moles.

You may have had a mole forever. You don't worry about it anymore. If it stays the same, you may not have to. If it starts to change, even sightly, that's when to pay attention. You may find it helpful to take a picture of the mole for comparison. This makes it easier when tracking slow changes over a long period of time.

4. Unexplained scars.

A scar can be the same -- you've always had it and you've grown used to it. A trip to the doctor could be in order, though, if you have no memory of getting the scar. You don't know when it happened, how you got hurt, or how long it's been there. It could be morpheaform, which has a scar-like appearance, though it is a type of basal cell carcinoma.

5. Bleeding.

Now, if a spot on your skin is actively bleeding, that certainly sets off alarm bells. A more subtle thing to look for, though, is a spot that bleeds through simple contact. Maybe you use a handle towel to dry your hands, for instance, and then the back of your hand is slightly bleeding.

Now, it's critical to know that all of these subtle signs couple have other causes. Don't assume they're definitely cancer just because they're on this list. That said, these are things that you and your doctor should look at, and your doctor should be familiar with them so that you don't get a dangerous -- and potentially deadly -- delayed diagnosis.

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