Valley Dermatology

Common Types of Skin Cancer

Knowledge is power, equip yourself with it about the most common types of skin cancer so you’re aware of what to look out for. 

There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

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The Dangers of Skin Cancer

People can have stages of skin cancer and yet not feel ill, which makes early treatment and diagnosis a little challenging. But by being aware of the early stages of this disease, you can protect yourself and seek effective treatment right away. Do you have scaly patches, raised growths, or sores that do not heal?

Most Common Skin Cancers

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Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer and the most frequently occurring form of all cancers.

In the U.S. alone, an estimated 3.6 million cases are diagnosed yearly. Occurring in sun-exposed parts of the body, BCCs arise from abnormal, uncontrolled growth of basal cells.

BCC’s are pearly or waxy bumps and scar-like lesions that appear on the skin. They are translucent, meaning you can see a bit through the surface. They can look pearly white or pink on white skin, or brown or glossy black on brown skin.


Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer.

On lighter skin, it occurs on sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your face, ears, and hands. People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma in areas that aren’t often exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma manifests as a filmy, red nodule in these areas, or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface.


Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer

Melanoma doesn’t need a sun-exposed area to form. It can develop anywhere on your body, in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that becomes cancerous. In men, it mostly appears on the face or trunk. In women, it most often develops on the lower legs. Melanoma can develop regardless of skin tone. In people with darker skin tones, melanoma tends to occur on the palms or soles, or under the fingernails or toenails.

The cancer can appear as large brownish spots with darker speckles, a mole that changes in color, size, or feel or that bleeds, a small lesion with an irregular border, and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black, a painful lesion that itches or burns, or dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes.

Signs and symptoms of less common skin cancers

Some other types of skin cancers include kaposi sarcoma, merkel cell carcinoma, and sebaceous gland carcinoma. 

Kaposi sarcoma is a rare form of skin cancer that develops in the skin’s blood vessels and causes red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes. This disease occurs more regularly in the bodies of people with weakened immune systems. 

Merkel cell carcinoma causes firm, shiny nodules that occur on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. It is often formed on the head, neck, and trunk. 

Sebaceous gland carcinoma is an uncommon and aggressive cancer that forms in the oil glands in the skin. It usually appears as hard, painless nodules, and can develop anywhere. Most of them occur on the eyelid, however.

Make an appointment with us if you observe changes in the appearance of your skin, such as a new growth, a change in a previous growth, or a recurring sore.

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