Skin Cancer Types

There are 3 types of skin cancer and they are named after the type of skin cell they start from. These are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma skin cancer.


Basal cell carcinoma:

  • The most common form of skin cancer but the least dangerous.
  • Appear as round or flattened lumps or scaly spots.
  • Red, pale, or pearly in color.
  • May become ulcerated, bleed, and fail to heal.
  • Grows slowly over months or years.
  • Usually found on the upper body, head, or neck.
  • Also known as non-melanoma skin cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma:

  • Less common, but more dangerous than basal cell carcinoma.
  • 1 to 2 percent can spread and cause death.
  • Look for scaly red areas that may bleed easily, ulcers, or non-healing sores that are often painful.
  • Grows over a period of months.
  • Often found on lips, ears, and scalp.
  • Also known as non-melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma skin cancer:

  • A least common but most serious form of skin cancer.
  • Can appear in a new or an existing spot, freckle, or mole that changes color, size, or shape.
  • Grows over weeks to months anywhere on the body (not just areas that get lots of sun).
  • If untreated, cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Occurs most frequently on the upper back in males and on the lower leg in females.

The warning signs of UV damage to the skin

The following conditions are not cancer but may predispose you to skin cancer or be a warning sign that damage to the skin or eyes has occurred.

Dysplastic naevi:

  • Are odd-shaped (also called atypical) moles that aren’t cancer, but may indicate a greater risk of developing melanoma.
  • Usually 5 to 10mm wide, with uneven coloring.
  • If you have lots of odd-shaped moles you are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer and should have your skin checked regularly by your doctor.

Solar Keratosis:

  • Generally, hard, red, scaly spots on sun-exposed areas of the skin.
  • Occur commonly on the head, neck, and the backs of the hands.
  • Are a warning sign that the skin has been damaged by the sun and that skin cancer may develop.