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What Are the Different Types of Skin Cancer

What Are the Different Types of Skin Cancer?

With so many skin cancers out there – some seemingly harmless, others potentially deadly, it can be confusing to know what it means when someone has “skin cancer”. The chances are good that you or someone you know has had a bout with this type of cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of all cancers – by far.

It’s All About the Epidermis

When learning about the different types of skin cancers, it’s helpful to know the names of the different cell types in the top layer of our skin, otherwise known as the epidermis. Conveniently enough, the cancers are named for these cell types: squamous, basal, and melanocytes.

Squamous Cells: The outer part of the epidermis is made up of squamous cells. We’re constantly shedding these cells as new cells form. But when squamous cells grow out of control, watch out! Squamous cell carcinoma!

Basal Cells: Located in the lower part of the epidermis, the basal cells are in the… basal cell layer… you may be noticing a trend here. What’s cool about basal cells is that they move upward (or outward, depending on how you visualize biological processes), then flatten, and finally transform into… squamous cells! Pretty neat trick, basal cells! If cancer forms in this layer of the epidermis, we call it basal cell carcinoma.

Melanocytes: These cells create melanin, the brown pigment in our skin. It’s this pigment that lends our skin a tan or brown color. Protecting your skin’s deeper layers from the sun’s harmful rays, your melanin serves as a natural sunscreen. And, as you may have already surmised, melanoma skin cancer begins in these cells.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Okay, now we know the names of the cells and their corresponding types of cancer. Now what? Let’s dive deeper not only into our epidermis, but also into the characteristics of each of these skin cancer types.


Basal & Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Among the most common types of all cancers (skin cancer), basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancers. Sun exposure is often the culprit behind both of these cancers.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Eight out of ten skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), the most common type of skin cancer. Often found on the face, head, neck, and arms, BCCs show up on the parts of our bodies that are exposed to the sun, usually.

While it is rare for BCCs to spread to other body parts, it’s still possible if left untreated. Not to mention, if it’s not removed completely, it will recur in the same spot. And once you’ve been diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer, it’s likely to crop up in other places.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

TWO out of ten skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). Found on the same spots where we find BCCs, face, ears, neck, lips, arms, and back of hands = the usual suspects conspiring against us with sunburns, SCCs are also associated with parts exposed to the sun.

Much more likely to grow into the deeper layers of your skin than basal cell skin cancers, SCCs can be removed completely. If they get into those deeper layers, SCCs can spread to other parts of the body. 


Much less common than basal and squamous cell cancers, melanoma is the cancer of the melanocytes discussed above. And while it occurs less frequently, melanoma is much more likely to grow and spread if left untreated.

While only accounting for roughly 1% of skin cancers, melanoma causes the bulk of deaths due to skin cancer. 

Tell Your Doctor

If you notice any changes on your skin, tell your doctor. Self-screen and visit your dermatologist for frequent skin screenings. In addition to basal and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma, there are other precancerous skin conditions related to these cancers to be on the lookout for.

And always wear sun protection in all of its forms. Even if you’re only outside for a short period, be sure to wear a daily moisturizer with broad-spectrum sunscreen.


Take it from me, a Skin Cancer Patient now for life, make sunscreen your favorite product and put it on daily!

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#typesofskincancer #skincancer #melanoma


Robin Wayman

Founder/Cosmetic Formulator

All Rights Reserved © 2020-2024 SunLux Skincare 

*Disclaimer: I am a trained Cosmetic Skincare Formulator and this article is intended for informational & educational purposes only, and we feel it meets our SunLux Skincare standards. We never claim to heal or cure any skin conditions. If you need additional help we always recommend our customers & readers go see their local Dermatologist. 


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