Skin Cancer

Read below to find out more information about skin cancer, the three most common types, symptoms and treatments.

Skin Cancer


Most skin cancers develop on the visible outer layer of the skin (the epidermis), particularly on sun-exposed areas like the face, head, hands, arms, and legs. In addition to sun exposure, family history may also play a role. Diagnosing skin cancer usually requires a skin biopsy, where a small piece of skin is removed for examination under a microscope. If skin cancer is detected before it has spread to surrounding tissues, chances of a complete cure are excellent.

Most Common Types of Skin Cancer

  • Basal Cell Carinoma - (also called BCC) comes from the basal cells in lowest part of the epidermis. 80-85% of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma - (also called SCC) comes from the skin cells (keratinocytes) that make up the top layers of the skin. About 10% of skin cancers are SCC. Skin cancer may often be preceded by lesions called pre-cancers. The most well-known of these lesions is called actinic keratosis (AK), an early stage of SCC.
  • Melanoma - comes from skin cells called melanocytes, which create pigment called melanin that gives skin its color. 5% of all skin cancers are melanoma. Although less common, melanomas are a very dangerous type of skin cancer and are the leading cause of death from skin cancer.

Signs & Symptoms

  • A sore that comes and goes but never completely heals
  • A shiny bump or nodule, especially if it appears pearly or translucent (these can look brown or reddish and resemble a mole)
  • A slightly raised pink growth with a crusted depression in the center, possibly with tiny blood vessels (capillaries) visible on the surface
  • A patch of skin that is red or irritated, especially on the chest, shoulders, or limbs
  • A white or yellow-ish waxy scar with poorly defined borders.


The best protection against skin cancer is to minimize sun exposure and use a broad spectrum sunscreen. Avoid tanning beds. Cover yourself with sun-protective clothing. Examine your skin from head to toe once every month. See your dermatologist every year for a professional skin cancer exam.


Several factors determine treatment of skin cancer, including the type, size, extent,  location and number of lesions, as well as your medical and family history of skin cancers. Treatment options include: medications such as 5-fluorouracil and Imiquimod cream; curettage & desiccation; and excision or Mohs surgery. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be recommended.

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