Can skin cancers occur on the scalp?

Yes, absolutely. Melanoma type skin cancers can occur on any part of the body which has pigment-producing cells (melanocytes), and that includes the skin of the scalp.

Should I be worried about a mole on the scalp?

If you have recently noticed a mole on your scalp or think that an existing mole may have changed, you should get a skin check as soon as possible to make sure it is not A Melanoma – a very dangerous type of skin cancer. Scalp melanomas have been shown to be more lethal than other melanomas, with one study showing scalp and neck melanomas deaths were nearly twice as common compared to melanomas elsewhere on the body.

Why are scalp melanoma skin cancers more dangerous?

The most common reason is due to a delay in diagnosis, unless you are consciously trying to look for them.

Some also believe that the scalp provides the right conditions for the melanoma to spread, since it has abundant blood vessels and lymphatics.

Can other skin cancers occur on the scalp?

Yes, other skin cancers such as Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can occur on the scalp.

What do skin cancers on the scalp look like?

The appearance of skin cancer on the scalp will vary depending on the type of skin cancer. Any of the three main types of cancer that can occur on your skin can appear on the scalp:

  1. Basal cell skin cancer (BCC): looks like a pink spot that can be flat or raised. Like BCCs in other areas, they can bleed easily, even with minor injury. Larger cancers may even have visible irregular blood vessels on its surface, and varies from being shiny to rough and crusty.

Here are some examples of BCC skin cancers on the scalp detected at Skin Check WA:

SCS001

SCS002

Some BCC skin cancers may appear like a pink blemish on the scalp:

SCS003

Other BCC skin cancers try to camouflage themselves with the skin of the scalp:

SCS004


Skin Check WA skin cancer doctors were able to easily detect this cancer on the scalp using high resolution dermoscopy:

SCS005

Some BCC skin cancers on the scalp may appear brown and pigmented like a mole:

SCS006

  1. Squamous cell skin cancer (SCC): often starts off with a rough, scaly patch, but can quickly get quite raised, firm, red and crusty. They can also become tender when pressed.

Here are some examples of SCC skin cancers on the scalp detected at Skin Check WA:

Early SCC skin cancers may look like a rough, scaly pink patch:

SCS007

More advanced SCC skin cancers on the scalp may become raised and angry looking:

SCS008

Some people dismiss these SCC skin cancers on the scalp, thinking that they were due to trauma or a scratch. One clue is that these cancers on the scalp are often sore when pressed, and will not heal:

SCS009

As SCC skin cancers on the scalp become more advanced, they can sometimes form a large crust or ulcer:

SCS0010

  1. Melanoma (a very dangerous type): the appearance of this skin cancer on the scalp can be quite varied. Most appear as a brownish or black spot with darker irregular colors and borders. A helpful clue is the appearance of a few darker mole or one that appears to be changing. Although most are dark, some rarer forms can appear as a firm pinkish red lump.

Here is an example of Melanoma skin cancer on the scalp detected at Skin Check WA:

SCS0011

How can I check for skin cancer on the scalp when I have a lot of hair?


It can be very challenging to try to visualize all areas of your scalp in the mirror. Most people need some help to have their scalp thoroughly checked, either from:


  • A partner or friend – in a brightly lit location with the aid of a comb and possibly a hairdryer at low setting to help separate the hair

  • Hairdressers – are often able to see any unusual spots on your scalp during a haircut

  • A professional skin check by an experienced doctor who has adequate equipment to check your scalp. At Skin Check WA, our doctors are experienced with scalp skin cancers and have the added advantage of using high resolution dermoscopy to find very early skin cancers on the scalp

So if you or someone you love is in the high-risk category for skin cancer, it’s worth having a professional skin check of the scalp and body. Call or book online with one of our experienced skin cancer doctors for a comprehensive skin check using dermoscopy.