Skin Cancer

Is It Skin Cancer or Just an Ingrown Hair?

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Team Molemap Creator
Posted 24/06/19

Is a raised boil-like bump that seems to have grown darker over time worrying you?

The fact is that any unusual growth on your skin needs to be checked out. With two out of every three Australians diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before their 70th birthday, it is vital for your health that you take any change in your skin seriously.

That said, not every new bump or spot on your skin is a sign of skin cancer. In many cases, it could be caused by ingrown hair.

What Is an Ingrown Hair?

An ingrown hair is a hair strand that has grown downwards or sideways into the skin. Although anyone can have ingrown hair, this is common amongst people with curly or coarse hair after they shave or wax. 

This can also happen when a razor or tweezer unevenly breaks off the hair; this leaves a sharp tip of hair so close to the skin surface that’s prone to grow sideways.

Another cause is when dead skin cells clog the hair follicle, forcing the hair tip to grow underneath the skin. 

When this happens, that area of skin gets irritated and inflamed. Here’s what an infected ingrown hair looks like.

Ingrown Hair

                                                        Source: Skin Answer

Some signs of an ingrown hair include the following:

  • Small round solid bumps often filled with pus appearing on the chin, cheeks, legs, pubic area, scalp, and armpits
  • Skin darkening
  • Painful, tender, and itchy
  • Embedded hairs

Knowing the Difference between Ingrown Hairs and Skin Cancer

Having an ingrown hair is safe; most of the time, it will disappear on its own. If it doesn’t, it could become an infection, which can be easily treated. 

It’s important to know if that boil-like bump is indeed just an ingrown hair or something more serious, like skin cancer. While an ingrown hair may resemble some types of skin cancer at first, there are some tell-tale differences. 

Ingrown hairs often appear in clusters of raised red bumps. In addition, they often cause fluid-filled cysts to appear which may feature a white or yellow head, much like an infected pimple. They can also become itchy and sore.

Skin cancer lesions, on the other hand, often appear as single moles or bumps. It is usually pain-free during its early stages, and while it may appear crusty, it usually does not contain puss.

Below are some other signs of the most common forms of skin cancer:

Basal cell carcinoma:

  • A pearly or waxy bump
  • A flat flesh-coloured or brown scar-like lesion
  • A bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and returns

Squamous cell carcinoma:

  • A firm, red nodule
  • A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface

Melanoma:

  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles
  • A mole that changes in colour, size, or feel; it may also bleed
  • A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black
  • A painful lesion that itches or burns
  • Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina, or anus

Early Skin Cancer Detection: The Key to Better Treatment

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, but fortunately, we know that it is treatable when detected at its early stages. 

In fact, research shows that the five-year survival rate for stage 1A and stage 1B melanoma is 97% and 92% respectively. That means the vast majority of skin cancer victims go on to live following treatment. Of course, as the number of melanoma cases continue to rise throughout Australia, early diagnosis is becoming even more important to help save lives.

Checking your skin regularly by yourself is a good start. If you notice any unusual spot or growth on your skin, see your GP or go to the nearest skin cancer detection clinic, which can help detect and monitor any early signs of irregularity that might develop on your skin. 

Molemap by Dermatologists

At Molemap, we know that skin cancer is a pressing issue in the country. That is why we’re committed to help those who are at a high risk of skin cancer. If you are concerned about a certain bump or mole and have been wondering if you are at risk, take the time to answer this quick assessment quiz now.

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