Different Types of Skin Cancer: What You Need to Know

Skin cancer is considered one of the most common types of cancer and often develops after prolonged periods of sun exposure. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) defines skin cancer as an abnormal growth of skin cells and estimates that approximately 9,400 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Early detection is one of the most critical factors in successful treatment.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three major types of skin cancer – Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Here at Blue Ridge Dermatology Associates, we want to do our part in educating those about skin cancer, the risk factors, and how you can be proactive in prevention and early detection. Each type requires different treatment options, so it is essential to know what you’re dealing with as soon as possible to increase your chances of a positive outcome.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, is considered the most common type of skin cancer and frequently develops in those with fair skin or skin of color. According to AAD, BBC often looks like a flesh-colored round growth, pearl-like bump, or a pinkish patch of skin. Some warning signs to look for include:

  • A translucent, skin-colored bump that may appear “shiny”
  • A scar-like area that is flat yellow, white, or waxy in color
  • A patch of skin that appears pinkish or reddish

BCCs can be tricky, as they come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. BCCs often resemble benign skin conditions such as normal moles, psoriasis, or eczema. Basal cell carcinoma is most common on the head, neck, and arms, and early diagnosis and treatment are important due to the deep penetration of BCC. The number one way to prevent BCC is to limit your exposure to the sun\’s ultraviolet rays and always wear sunscreen!


Melanoma, which often develops suddenly, or takes the form of a mole, is the deadliest form of skin cancer due to its tendency to spread amongst the body rapidly.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses A-B-C-D-E as a simple way to remember the warning signs of melanoma:

  1. Asymmetrical: Does the mole take on an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  2. Border: Is the border irregular or jagged?
  3. Color: Is the color uneven, such as shades of tan, brown, black, or areas of white, blue, or red?
  4. Diameter: Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea or a pencil eraser?
  5. Evolving: Has the mole or spot changed in size, shape, or color during the past few weeks or months?

There is no one singular cause of all melanomas, but it is known that exposure to UV rays increases your risk of developing this skin condition. Per the Mayo Clinic, melanoma can also appear in areas that do not necessarily get direct exposure to the sun, such as the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, and even your fingernail beds. It is important to make an appointment with your dermatologist if you find an unusual mole or identify any A-B-C-D-E characteristics.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous Cell Carcinoma, or SCC, is the second most common type of skin cancer. Similar to BCC, SCC is more likely to develop in people with light or fair skin. This type of skin cancer is characterized by a red, firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and repeatedly opens. Research estimates that BCC and SCC affect more than 3 million Americans annually.

According to AAD, some people can develop dry, scaly patches or spots on their skin called actinic keratoses (AK), which are also caused by sun exposure. However, AK is not considered skin cancer but rather a skin growth that can turn into SCC.

It is important to note that skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, and seeing your dermatologist can help you make a full recovery. Are you looking for comprehensive dermatology care? Blue Ridge Dermatology is here to help. Check out our website or give us a call at (919) 781-1050 for more information. And remember, when in doubt, check it out.

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