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What is

(black) Skin cancer?

Skin cancer is a broad term that covers various malignant skin diseases. The most common form is “white skin cancer”, while black skin cancer is considered far more dangerous. The symptoms and treatment of skin cancer vary depending on the type of disease. Find out more about the visual signs of (black) skin cancer, its possible causes and diagnostic procedures in this article. It also highlights the importance of early detection and preventive measures to reduce the risk of this serious disease.

About the symptoms
Patientin mit sehr vielen Leberflecken

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Important facts about black skin cancer

The most common symptoms of skin cancer are

  • Changes to existing moles: enlargement, irregular contours, color changes
  • Appearance of new, unusual skin lesions or nodules
  • Itching or pain in the area of the skin lesions
  • Wounds that do not heal or bleed repeatedly
  • Formation of ulcers or crusts on the skin
  • Asymmetrical shape of moles or skin changes
  • Changes in the texture or thickness of the skin
  • Rapid growth of skin lesions

What are the most common forms of skin cancer?

There are different forms of skin cancer. The most common are:

  1. Basal cell carcinoma (basal cell cancer): Usually the most proliferative form, but rarely metastasizing.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma (spinalioma): Can spread more quickly than basal cell carcinoma.
  3. Malignant melanoma (black skin cancer): Most aggressive form, tends to metastasize.
  4. Merkel cell carcinoma: Rare and aggressive form of skin cancer that affects the Merkel cells.
  5. Actinic keratosis (white skin cancer): Precancerous lesion that can develop into squamous cell carcinoma in some cases.
Any form of skin cancer requires timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment to ensure the best chance of recovery.

Manifestations of black skin cancer

Untersuchung der Haut mit Wood Lampe

Superficial spreading melanoma (SSM)

Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common form of malignant melanoma. It manifests itself as a flat, sometimes nodular skin change that is often sharply demarcated from healthy skin. The color can vary from brown, gray, pink to blue-black, with some areas rarely appearing whitish. SSM occurs preferentially on the back, chest and extremities and develops within one to four years.

Nodular melanoma (NM)

Nodular melanoma is the most aggressive form of malignant melanoma. Similar to SSM, it often occurs on the back, chest and extremities. However, within a few months the NM develops into a raised, nodular and often bleeding tumor of blue to dark brown color. It grows very deeply, which means that this form has the worst prognosis of all melanomas.

Lentigo-maligna melanoma (LMM)

Lentigo maligna melanoma develops slowly over years to decades on the basis of the precancerous stage lentigo maligna. It occurs mainly in older people and prefers sun-exposed skin areas such as the face, neck, arms and hands as localization.

Acrolentiginous melanoma (ALM)

Of the four types of melanoma mentioned here, ALM is the rarest form of malignant melanoma. It is often manifested by blurred, multi-colored patches on the extremities (acres), i.e. in the area of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, finger and toe extremities, especially under the nails. This melanoma can easily be mistaken for a nail injury, a nail fungus or a wart.

What are the causes and risk factors for black skin cancer?

The development of malignant melanoma is multifactorial and is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental and individual risk factors. The main causes and risk factors include

Excessive UV exposure (and sunbed use)

Light-skinned skin type

Skin lesions

Family history

Age factor

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

The diagnosis of malignant melanoma is usually made by a combination of a physical examination, the patient’s medical history and, in some cases, a tissue biopsy for examination under the microscope. Here are the steps of diagnosis in general.

The exact diagnosis is crucial for determining the stage and the treatment plan. If detected early, the chances of recovery are good, so it is important to have any suspicious skin changes examined immediately by a dermatologist.

Physical examination and medical history



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Imaging procedures

Laboruntersuchung mit dem Mikroskop

What to do about skin cancer

Prevention and early detection play a crucial role in dealing with malignant melanoma. These are important measures for prevention and early detection. The selection of the appropriate treatment method depends on various factors, such as the stage of the skin cancer, the size and location of the tumor and the patient’s individual health conditions. It is crucial that an experienced dermatologist or oncologist makes the diagnosis and determines the optimal treatment option for the individual patient.

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Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, especially during the intense hours of sunshine (usually from 10 am to 4 pm). Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, hats and sunglasses. Regularly apply sunscreen with a sufficient sun protection factor (SPF 30 or higher) to all uncovered areas of skin. Avoid using sunbeds and solariums as they can increase the risk of skin cancer. Carry out a regular self-examination of the skin to detect suspicious changes or new skin lesions at an early stage.

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Early detection

Have your skin checked regularly by a dermatologist or skin cancer specialist, especially if you have an increased risk of skin cancer. ABCDE rule: Pay attention to the ABCDE rule for self-examination of skin lesions: Asymmetry, irregular border, different colors, diameter greater than 6 mm, and evolution or change in the lesion. Early medical clarification: If you suspect skin cancer or notice any abnormal skin changes, consult a doctor immediately to obtain a precise diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment.

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Treatment options for skin cancer

The treatment of white skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and spinalioma, offers various procedures to choose from. The most promising method is usually an operation to remove the tumor. In some cases, scraping or icing the tumor may be sufficient. For some patients, however, alternative or complementary methods of skin cancer treatment are an option. These include radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy. These techniques can be used in addition to or instead of surgery, depending on individual circumstances and the progression of the skin cancer.


Please note that all content provided regarding individual medical conditions, treatments, procedures, etc. is general information and may vary depending on the physician:in and individual case and initial situation.
For more detailed information, please always consult your doctor.

Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (AWMF), German Cancer Society (DKG), German Cancer Aid (DKH). S3 guideline on the diagnosis, treatment and aftercare of melanoma. AWMF register no.: 032-024OL. 2020.

Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). Optical radiation: Information for sunbed users. 2022

German Cancer Society (DKG), German Cancer Aid (DKH), Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (AWMF). Actinic keratosis and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin (S3 guideline). AWMF register no.: 032-022OL. 2020.

[4] Guideline program oncology (German Cancer Society, German Cancer Aid, AWMF): S3 guideline prevention of skin cancer, long version 2.1, 2021, AWMF register number: 032/052OL (retrieved on: 24.07.2023)


German Cancer Society: "Malignant melanoma ("black skin cancer")", (last retrieval date: 24.07.2023)