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Three Common Types of Skin Cancers

Updated on January 5, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Melanoma Cancer
Melanoma Cancer | Source

Common Skin Cancers

There are several types of skin cancers, including melanoma, basal and squamous cell. They are the most common serious skin cancers.

The approximate number of basal cell carcinomas diagnosed annually are 2 million and this is the most common type of skin cancer. The number of people in the U.S. diagnosed each year with invasive melanomas are 96,480 adults (57,220 men and 39,260 women), while 132,00 are diagnosed around the world each year. Skin cancers do not often metastasize, but they can be deadly is they do.

Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Basal cell cancers rarely reach an advanced stage, however, they can be difficult to treat if they do become advanced. Squamous cells are flat and located in the upper part of the epidermis. They are shed as new ones form. Approximately 2 out of 10 skin cancers are from squamous cells. Squamous cell cancers can usually be completely removed. This cancer is also called Bowen Disease.

Basal cell cancer is the most common skin cancer, and it starts in the basal cell layer of the skin. Approximately 8 out of 10 skin cancers are from basal cells. This is located in the lower part of the epidermis. This cancer type must be completely removed because it may return in the same spot. These cancers are usually found on the neck, face or head, which are in sun-exposed areas of the skin. It grows slowly and it may grow into nearby areas of the body. It can also invade bone if left untreated.

Squamous cell cancer can start in the genital region, which accounts for a large percentage of deaths from skin cancer. The bulk of these cancers are related to an infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV), which comes from sexual contact. There are available vaccines to help prevent infection from HPV, which are given to reduce cervical cancer risk. The vaccines are available for men also. The use of condoms is recommended and the limiting number of sexual partners is helpful.

Bowden Disease- squamous cell
Bowden Disease- squamous cell | Source

Melanoma Cancer

Melanoma is a most aggressive skin cancer. The growth may occur anywhere on the body. Melanomas develop in melanocytes, producing melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color. It can also form in the eye and very rarely on internal organs.

Hidden melanomas may occur in the eye, under a nail, on the palms, on the soles of the feet and in between toes. There are also mucosal melanomas that can be found in the mucous membrane of the nose, esophagus, mouth, anus, vagina and urinary tract.

A change in a mole or a new pigmented area appearing on your skin should be seen by a dermatologist. A normal mole is all the same color, such as tan, brown or black, and it has a distinct border. The average person has anywhere between 10 to 45 moles by the time they are 50 years of age.

Mayo Clinic has published a list of melanoma characteristics, listed below:

“To help you identify characteristics of unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers, think of the letters ABCDE:

  • A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.

  • B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders — characteristics of melanomas.

  • The laboratory equipment has vastly improved over the past several years. For instance, optical biopsies may be diagnosed using reflective confocal microscopy (RCM) and optical coherence tomography (OCT).

  • Squamous and basal cell cancers do not typically spread, but i

  • C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.

  • D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).

  • E is for evolving. Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows in size or that changes color or shape. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as new itchiness or bleeding.”

How Skin Cancer Spreads-Mayo Clinic


An excisional, incisional or punch biopsy is used for a biopsy, which depends on the size, type and location of the cancer. If the cancer spreads it is more difficult to treat.

The current medical focus is to try and determine if the cancer is likely to spread. Recent research has shown that squamous cell cancers have a lower level of the INPP5A protein, and they are more likely to spread.

Squamous Cell
Squamous Cell | Source

Skin Cancer Treatments

Treatments vary and are based on the type of skin cancer and include:

  1. Surgical removal and radiation for skin cancer are the most common treatments.
  2. Chemotherapy is also used for radiating cancers.
  3. Biological therapy will boost the patient’s immune system. This therapy is designed to treat melanoma and uses interferon, interleukin-2, nivolumab (Opdivo), ipilimumab (Yervoy) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
  4. Targeted therapy may be designed to treat specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells. Targeted drugs (hedgehog pathway inhibitors) help some people with basal cell nevus syndrome.

There is a form of B3 (nicotinamide) is sometimes prescribed for high-risk people to lower the risk of basal and squamous cell cancers.

For patients at a higher risk for skin conditions, chemoprevention may be prescribed to reduce their risk. This is specifically used for patients with a compromised immune system or if the patient has certain congenital conditions.

Skin Cancer Risk Factors

Doctors do not know the cause of skin cancer, but they consider ultraviolet light from the sun or a tanning bed to be the biggest risk factor.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being fair skinned gives you less protection from UV radiation
  • Blonds, redheads, light colored eyes or freckles increases risk
  • Family history of melanomas like a close relative with melanoma
  • Excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure the sun or a tanning bed
  • History of being sunburnt, with 1 or more times of a severe burn with blisters
  • Living closer to the equator or at a high elevation
  • Having unusual moles or numerous moles (over 50) increases your risk
  • Having a weakened immune system

The 4 Stages of Melanoma: The Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer - Mayo Clinic

Skin Cancer Prevention

One of the best ways to treat skin cancer is to do self-exams. stand in front of a full-length mirror and examine your the front and back of your body. Then, check the soles of your feet, between your fingers and toes and look at your finger and toe nails. This is the best chance for finding the cancer at an early stage.

Specific behaviors for prevention include:

  • Avoid tanning beds and lamps,
  • Use sunscreen (SPF-40) all year long
  • Become familiar with your body so you will know if you have a new or changed growth
  • Avoid the sun at midday, between 10 Am and 4 PM
  • Wear protective clothing

In Conclusion

Many doctors think skin cancers are preventable. The self exams will go a long way in alerting you of a new growth or skin changes. There are a wealth of medical studies in progress, so the future is brighter for those with an advanced skin cancer.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria, I am glad you like the ABCDE mnemonic. I thought it was good also.

    Thank you for the birthday wishes. Much appreciate.

    Love and hugs, Pam

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    3 days ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Informative and important, dear Pamela. The ABCDE mnemonic is a great way for us all to remember what to look out for.

    Sending wishes for a happy and wonderful birthday too! Love, Maria

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi MG, I am glad you found this article interesting and your comments are certainly appreciated.

  • MG Singh profile image

    MG Singh 

    11 days ago from Singapore

    A very interesting and informative article. You are doing a great service by highlighting this important disease and creating awareness.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, I agree that the pictures help people know what a cancerous lesion looks like. A dermtologist should be seen for any abnormal looking growth. Thank you for your comments, Peggy.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    11 days ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Pamela,

    This is an important topic for everyone to know. Taking precautions to avoid these types of skin cancer is equally important. It is good that you also included photos so that readers know what to look for when they are spotting moles on their bodies.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Alyssa, I know I didn't know how important it was to protect our skin when I was young. I appreciate you sharing this information. Thank you for your very nice comments.

  • Alyssa Nichol profile image


    4 weeks ago from Ohio

    This is a fantastic article, full of information we all could use. It's so important to wear sunscreen and take other preventative measures to reduce our risk of skin cancer. I appreciate the information you provided on the different types and I've learned a few new things. Sharing this so others can learn more as well. Thank you, Pamela!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ms Dora, I am so glad you now know about some of the newer treatments. I am sorry to hear about your uncle.

    Your comments are appreciated, as always.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

    My uncle suffered and died in the nineteen fifties from sores on his chin. Years later, a physician explained to my grandmother that it was cancer but that in our part of the world, knowledge of the disease was limited. Reading your detailed article, my attitude is gratitude that we can benefit from this advanced knowledge of diagnosis and treatment. Thank you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish, I'm sorry to hear about your husband and dad, plus the other person you knew that died from melanoma. My I husband had a rather large canerous growth on his arm, so he see the dermatologist every 6 months now. We just didn't know when we were young to take care. Thanks so much for your comments, Flourish.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 weeks ago from USA

    I remember too the days of slathering on baby oil and baking in the sun. Yikes. My dad and husband have both had skin cancer areas removed from the head, face or neck. My husband is a blue eyed blond (in college his friends joked that he was the whitest man on the beach because of his coloring). He goes to a dermatologist for annual full body skin checks because of his risk. Unfortunately I have known someone who died of melanoma so I keep after him.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    5 weeks ago

    Thank you for the explanation and warning signs.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, We simpily didn't know 40 years ago that the sun could ultimately make us pay a price. Fortunately, I grew up in northern OH and we hd numerous cloudy days because when summer came I stayed at the swimming pool as much as possible.

    I am glad you found the article interesting and I appreciate your comments.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    5 weeks ago from UK

    This is a helpful, interesting and very relevant article. I wish we had all been made aware of the risks many years ago. I shuddered recently as a friend related how 40 years ago she would cover herself in oil when sunbathing to get a better tan.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Devika, Skin cacer looks awful and staying out of the sun or using sun screen can really help protect you. I never knew that when I was young, but I haven't had any skin cancer. I am glad you found the article informative and I appreciate your comments.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    5 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Oh my word! These photos show me everything of what a skin cancer can do to ones self. Informative and definitely an eye-opener for me.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi MG Singh, Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, Prevention is not too hard for skin cancer and it is surely worthwhile. I appreciate your comments.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    You've shared some great advice, as always, Pamela. I hope many people read it. It's important to prevent cancer and to stop its spread if it does appear.

  • emge profile image

    MG Singh 

    5 weeks ago from Singapore

    A very informative article. Thank you for it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, My husband had a basal cell growth on his arm that was removed about 2 years ago. He ignored it for a period of time but fortunately it was not advanced. My husband gets checked every 6 months also.

    Thank you for your comments. Have a wonderful week, Linda.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lori, Your pastor's skin cancer must have been advanced when it was discovered. Most likely it was melanoma as that is the worst one.

    It is good to check your skin as I said in the article, so I am glad you note any changes. I appreciate your comments. Have a great week, Lori.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Chuck, I grew up thinking the same thing. I live in northern FL and it is sunny most of the time, so I do use sun screen. I would not be surprised to find out AZ was second only to Australia.

    Thanks so much for your comments. Have a good week.

  • Chuck profile image

    Chuck Nugent 

    5 weeks ago from Tucson, Arizona

    Pam - Another great and informative Hub. Reading Doris James MizJabbers comment above reminded me of when I was growing up a goal in summer was for people to get a "healthy" tan. However, my father, as usual, cautioned against too much sun saying it could lead to skin cancer (which was a very unusual type of cancer in the northern half of the U.S. where we lived at the time) so I have tried to exercise caution especially after moving to Tucson, AZ which I heard somewhere is the number 2 place for skin cancer second only to the Australian desert.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    5 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

    I had a pastor once who ignored the discolored marks on him and he died. I don't recall what type it was but he went rather quickly after he was diagnosed like within six months I think.

    This is very important information. I was sunburned quite badly in my teens many times so I keep my eye out for any abnormalities.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

    My husband was treated for a basal cell cancer on his ear just one year ago. He now going to the doctor for a skin check every 6 months. He spent much of his career working outdoors. Thank you for presenting this information in a way that we can understand.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, I think the odd color is a big clue that something is wrong. Catching it early is the key to survival and good heath. I appreciate your coments as always, my friend. Have a great week.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    Our 23 yr old barista was recently diagnosed with this....must have been at a very early stage....anyway, it can happen to anyone. For her, it was an oddly colored mole.....anyway, very important information, Pamela.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna, The planet is heating up and care should be taken to avoid sun burns. That is something where a person has control.

    I didn't realize you lived in Ireland. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    5 weeks ago

    Great advice particularly given the state of the planet and how hot many parts of it are becoming. I tend to keep out of the sun during the hottest part of the day (not that there are too many of those in Ireland). Skin cancer is one of the fastest spreading cancers, so great care should always be taken. An excellent and informative article Pamela.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Clive, I understand the way you feel about cancer, but you were healed! Thanks for commenting.

  • clivewilliams profile image

    Clive Williams 

    6 weeks ago from Jamaica

    I just hate cancer!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Doris, I have never used a tanning bed either, but my experience in the sun is the same as yours. I have had a couple of precancerous lestions frozen off too. I never heard of sun screen until I was an adult. There is a lot we didn't know about health back in the day. LOL

    I appreciate your generous comments and I hope you have a good 2020. I know you have had more than your share of health problems, and I hope that this is a better year.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    6 weeks ago from Beautiful South

    This is a good nutshell description of the different types of skin cancers. As children, we weren't taught about the risks of UV rays, and most of us didn't use suntan lotions or oils until we were grown. Even then we discontinued their use after we developed tans because we thought those would keep us from burning. We baked ourselves in the sun. As a result, I've had at least seven precancerous lesions frozen off my hands and arms, and one deeper lesion burned off my chest.

    My mother was a fair-skinned blond, but the rest of us were brunettes with medium complexions. My brother and I both worked at the community swimming pool as teenagers. He turned dark bronze and I turned copper when in the sun. So far, he has escaped any suspicious lesions or skin cancers. Today I cringe whenever I hear of anyone still using a tanning bed. But people won't listen. I wouldn't either until I started experiencing the results of being so hard-headed.


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