Skin Cancers

Skin Cancers

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancers:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma
Melanoma Basal Cell Squamous Cell

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancers; however melanomas are the most dangerous.

Basal cell carcinomas (commonly referred to as "BCCs") are the least serious of the three types of cancers in that they are rarely life threatening:  however, they can be extremely disfiguring if left untreated.

Likewise, squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are locally destructive, but in some cases may spread internally and can be life threatening if ignored.

Both BCCs and SCCs are related to chronic cumulative sun exposure and therefore, tend to develop on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. So, if you've been a "sun worshipper" at any point in your life, or if your profession (or hobbies) keeps you out in the Sun for long periods of time, it's best to get a full head-to-toe skin check so any cancerous growths can be detected and treated early. In addition to natural sun exposure, tanning bed exposure is also known to increase the risk of developing BCCs and SCCs.

And for those of you with fair skin, light hair and eyes, your risk is greater, too.


BCCs can be tricky to diagnose as they can look like other common skin disorders. Typically BCCs have a white or yellowish scar-like appearance with fuzzy borders. Sometimes, the skin will appear shiny, waxy or tight. Other BCCs look like open sores that may bleed, ooze or crust over.

These sores will often heal up, only to begin bleeding again within a few days or weeks. A persistent sore that won't heal is a common sign of a BCC and needs to be looked al by your dermatologist immediately.

SCCs, on the other hand look like scaly red patches, elevated growths with a central depression, open sores, or warts. They may bleed and crust over. As with all skin cancers early treatment is crucial.

As worrisome as BCCs and SCCs arc, melanomas are the skin cancers that get the most attention. And for good reason; they are the deadliest. Melanomas kill approximately 8,000 people in the U.S. each year. Sadly, the vast majority of those deaths are preventable.

As with all of the skin cancers, the most notable cause of melanoma is sun exposure, however, heredity and skin type also play a role. If you have lots of moles, you may want to perform a self screening exam, called the ABCDE exam.

Self-Screening: The ABCDE Exam

ABCDE stands for Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolving. Any new skin growth that is Asymmetrical, has blurry or jagged Borders, has a change in Color, is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch in Diameter), or is changing or Evolving should be examined by a physician.

So be proactive!

Reapply sunscreen every two hours, wear protective clothing, and practice your ABCDEs. And if you have any suspicious growths, don't ignore them and assume they'll go away. See your physician immediately. Remember, an ounce of prevention really IS worth a pound of cure.

To schedule an appointment for an examination by one of our providers, call us at one of our locations listed below. 

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