Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.  The main types of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Melanoma is much less common than the other types but much more likely to invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the skin.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, also called nonmelanoma skin cancer, are the most common forms of skin cancer. Most basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be cured.

Melanoma is more likely to spread to nearby tissues and other parts of the body and can be harder to cure. Melanoma is easier to cure if the tumor is found before it spreads to the dermis (inner layer of skin). Melanoma is less likely to cause death when it is found and treated early.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: Areas on the skin that look like scars, lumps or nodules that are shiny or have visible blood vessels; crusty, itchy patches of skin that may bleed or have a depression in the middle; or red patches of skin that look like eczema.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: any sore that does not heal or comes back after healing; rough-feeling growths/bumps that get crusted over and bleed; patches of skin that are flat, scaly, and red; or white spots in the mouth, on the tongue, gums, or cheeks.
  • Melanoma: can present as moles, scaly patches of skin, open sores, raised bumps, or black marks under finger or toenails. Use the ABCDE memory device to spot the warning signs of melanoma on the skin: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, Evolution, or the Ugly Duckling method, where any mole or marking that does not look like the others on your body is worth getting checked by a dermatologist.

Screening for Skin Cancer

There is no official recommendation from the American Cancer Society for early detection of skin cancer, but most doctors will recommend checking your own skin once a month, especially if you are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. A visual self-exam by the patient and a clinical examination by the health care provider may be used to screen for skin cancer. If an area on the skin looks abnormal, a biopsy is usually done.

Skin Cancer Resources