Types of Skin Cancer

Three main types of skin cancer account for nearly 100% of all cases: Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest kind. All of these skin cancers occur when skin is over-exposed to UV rays from prolonged time in the sun or indoor tanning. It is essential to identify and treat skin cancer and its earliest stages, when cure rates are about 99%. Learn more about these common skin cancers below.

Worried or just curious about a mole or skin spot? Call 800-777-7775 today to make an appointment for a skin cancer screening.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of non-melanoma skin cancer. It most often forms on skin that has been exposed to the sun for many years. Common places that basal cell develops include the head, neck, back of the hands and face, especially the nose. BCC grows slowly over time and seldom spreads, but can destroy tissue and bone around it if not treated. BCC is the easiest skin cancer to treat and has a high cure rate when found and treated early.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. Like basal cell carcinoma, SCC is also a non-melanoma skin cancer. Growth usually begins in the upper layers of the epidermis (skin). It may start as actinic keratosis, a skin spot characterized by rough, dry, scaly patches. Squamous cell carcinoma is very curable if caught and treated early.


Although less common than other skin cancers, melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer, potentially causing death. However, almost 100% of melanomas-if found early-can be treated successfully1. In later stages, melanoma can spread to vital organs, making treatment difficult, so it is essential to have any suspicious skin moles or sores evaluated by a doctor right away. Melanoma risk can be inherited, so if someone in your family has had melanoma, it is important to check your skin frequently.

Melanoma begins in the cells that produce pigment (melanocytes), which is why melanomas are often a multi-colored mix of tan, brown, black or blue. The pigment cells help protect the deeper layers of your skin from the sun. When UV rays from natural (sun) or artificial (tanning beds) sources damage the DNA in skin, this can affect genes that control cell division and growth. When these genes don't work properly, melanoma may form. Melanoma can form at any time without warning, so it is essential to know your ABCDE's for skin cancer and perform regular skin exams to know your moles.

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis, or AK, is a rough, dry, scaly patch or growth on the skin that is considered a precancerous stage of skin cancer. Skin may feel gritty, soft or different from the surrounding skin. AKs are often found on the face, ears and scalp. People with AKs commonly complain of itching, soreness, bleeding and general discomfort.

An AK forms on skin that has been damaged by overexposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. Most remain benign, but if left untreated, an AK may develop into squamous cell carcinoma. If skin cancer develops and is caught at the early stage, it can often be cured.

Skin Cancer is 99% Curable

But you might not know you have it unless you check your body regularly and know the warning signs of skin cancer. If you spot something suspicious, call 800-777-7775 to be referred to a dermatologist.