Basal cell carcinoma. Source:

Red dots on the skin usually don’t mean cancer – usually.

But you should get acquainted with your skin and what is normal for it versus not normal, so that if you start seeing reddish dots, you’ll know whether to immediately see a doctor, or just relax and not worry.

Joshua L. Fox, MD, F.A.A.D., Director and Founding Physician of Advanced Dermatology, PC, explains.

What could possibly cause red dots on the skin?

Many things can cause this, and some of those causes are cancer.

Dr. Fox says that red dots have many causes from a variety of skin conditions. Here is a list of the most common:

– Red bumps – can be pus-filled over the face, chest and back: acne

– Reddish raised flat sores: allergic reaction, irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, herpes, malaria, heat rash

– Reddish dome-shaped bumps, appears sprinkled randomly and itchy: insect bites

– Small red dot, larger or bruise-like spots that appear after taking a medicine: allergic purpura

– Red, raised strawberry like appearance: hemangiomas (scary-sounding name, but very harmless; also called angiomas).

Angiomas. Shutterstock/Timonina

Other Causes

– Reddish & flushed appearance around cheeks, chin, forehead and nose: rosacea

– Red, itchy rash that affects the groin area: jock itchyeast infectiondiaper rash in infants

– Expanding, red and slightly itchy rashes over the chest and abdomen: pityriasis rosea

– Scattered pink and red dots when a patient is feeling under the weather: viral infection.

When It Means Skin Cancer…

– Red, scaly, crusted unusual growth on the lip, chin or anywhere on the face: basal or squamous cell carcinoma (below).

Basal cell carcinoma. Shutterstock/Dermatology11


Squamous cell carcinoma. Shutterstock/Dermatology11

– Reddish, irregular shape and colors: amelanotic melanoma (below)

amelanotic melanoma


– Reddish, purplish, dark or black raised spots anywhere that keep growing: Kaposi’s sarcoma

– Rarely a skin cancer can present as this: molluscum

If you are not sure what the red dots on your skin can mean, see a dermatologist immediately. Skin cancer needs to be treated immediately.

Don’t assume the growth is basal cell carcinoma, the “best” kind of cancer to have, since it never metastasizes.

To the layman, a single melanoma (deadliest skin cancer) speck can pass for a basal cell carcinoma.

To play safe, have a dermatologist examine you from head to toe once a year.

dr. fox

In 1987 Dr. Fox founded the AAD Melanoma and Skin Cancer Prevention Program in Queens, NY. He has been chief of dermatology of several major teaching hospitals including Mt. Sinai Hospital of Queens.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, health and personal security topics for many years, having written thousands of feature articles for a variety of print magazines and websites. She is also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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