How To Spot The Three Main Types Of Skin Cancer

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By now, most everyone understands that repeated exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, but most people are confused about the various types of skin cancer and how serious each one can be to your health. There are three main types of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Read on for more information about these three skin cancer types.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This cancer is the most common and normally appears on sun-exposed areas of the skin, particularly the face and neck. Fortunately, this type of skin cancer is very unlikely to spread to other areas. Frequent and/or intense exposure to the sun is nearly always to blame, and it is thus the most preventable type of skin cancer.

Looks Like:

  • An open sore that does not heal, or that heals only to come back a few weeks later.
  • A crusty, red patch.
  • A shiny, pearly bump.
  • (can be all of these, one of these, or a combination of these)

Treatment: The cancer is removed on an outpatient basis using a scalpel or a laser, or it is frozen and removed using liquid nitrogen.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This second most common skin cancer is thought to kill about 2000 people a year. The cumulative effects of a lifetime spent in the sun can cause squamous cell cancer. People who have green, blue or gray eyes, light skin and light hair color are more like to get this type of skin cancer.

Looks Like:

  • A wart-like bump
  • A red scaly patch with irregular borders.
  • An elevated growth with a depressed center.
  • An open sore with bleeding and crusting that doesn't go away.

Treatment: The cancer is removed on an outpatient basis using a scalpel or a laser, or it is frozen and removed using liquid nitrogen.


The most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, is caused by damage to the DNA in your cells from UV radiation. Detection and early treatment is key for survival, since this disease can metastasize and invade other areas of your body and become harder to treat.

Looks Like:

These signs of melanoma correspond to the the letters ABCDE, making it easier to remember.

  • A: asymmetry (not perfectly round or oval)
  • B: border (uneven)
  • C: color (various colors in a mole, instead of a single brown color)
  • D: diameter (larger than a pencil eraser tip)
  • E: evolving (changing color, shape, size, begins to bleed, etc)

Treatment: The tumor is usually removed with some surrounding healthy-appearing tissue. Additional treatments will be necessary if the melanoma has spread, including radiation and chemotherapy.

All three of these skin cancers should be considered dangerous and potentially deadly. You will likely be referred to an oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer for treatment. With skin cancer, you don't want to wait, no matter how minor the bump may look, to get an expert opinion and treatment.

For more information, contact Sturdy Memorial Hospital or a similar location.