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The Three Kinds of Skin Cancer + How to Spot Them

If you notice any of the warning signs for any of the skin cancers described here, it’s wise to make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United Sated and the Center for Disease Control currently estimates that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Read on to learn about the three most common types of skin cancer and the warning signs associated with each so you can guard yourself – and your loved ones – against this potentially life-threatening disease.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common of the three most prevalent kinds of skin cancer. While it usually develops on the parts of the body that get the most exposure to the sun, including the head, neck and the back of the hands, it can also appear elsewhere.

Basal cell carcinomas don’t usually spread to other parts of the body, but they will spread to deeper tissue and even bone where they grow if left untreated.

What to look for:

Look out for skin growths that are dome-shaped and have blood vessels inside of them. The color could be pink, brown, black or the same color as your skin. The growth might flatten in the center and ooze or crust. Basal cell carcinomas tend to bleed easily and won’t heal, or will heal and return. Sometimes they’re waxy-feeling, hard and light in color and might seem like scars.

When they appear on the trunk, basal cell carcinomas often appear as shiny, pink or red scaly patches and can even be mistaken for eczema.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, also develops on skin frequently exposed to the sun like that on the hands, face and neck. Women in particular get squamous cell carcinoma on their legs too but it can appear on any part of the body including inside the mouth, on the lips, on the genitals and on the bottom of the feet.

This cancer is also considered slow-growing, but if left untreated it can spread to other tissue, bones and lymph nodes.

What to look for:

Look out for dome-shaped bumps that grow on your skin or red, scaly patches. Squamous cell carcinomas might itch or hurt, and can bleed easily when scraped. Lumps or bumps can feel rough and might bleed as they grow.

40-60% of squamous cell carcinomas begin as actinic keratoses (AKs), rough patches on the skin caused by bad sunburns. If you have AKs you should be under the care of a dermatologist as these growths are considered pre-cancerous and, when left untreated, can become squamous cell carcinomas.


Melanoma is the most dangerous kind of skin cancer because it spreads quickly though when it’s found early, it’s highly treatable. Melanoma can form anywhere but because it’s a cancer of the melanocytes – the cells that produce the pigment melanin – it often develops in moles.

Cutaneous melanoma is melanoma of the skin, but mucosal melanoma can occur in the body’s mucous membranes and ocular melanoma can develop in the eye. Cutaneous melanoma is linked to sun exposure but mucosal melanoma and ocular melanoma are thought to be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

What to Look For:

There’s a great method for detecting melanoma that’s also alphabetical – the ABCDEs of moles! If you notice a mole that is Asymmetrical, has irregular Borders, is multi-Colored, has a Diameter larger than a standard pencil eraser, or Evolves in color or size, you should get it checked out by a dermatologist soon. When it comes to melanoma, acting quickly could save your life.

If you notice any of the warning signs for any of the skin cancers described above, it’s wise to make an appointment with a dermatologist. Experts like the ones at Henghold Skin Health and Surgery Group can tell a lot just by looking, and they can biopsy any suspicious growths to provide a firm diagnosis and identify appropriate treatment options. To learn more or schedule a skin cancer screening, visit http://henghold.com/.