The Characteristics of the Three Types of Skin Cancer

If you have recently received a diagnosis of skin cancer, the type of treatment that you receive may depend on the type of skin cancer that you have. There are three types of skin cancer, and the first two make up the large majority of all of the skin cancer that is diagnosed. In many cases, this disease can be fairly easy to treat because it does not always spread to other parts of the body. However, there are some cases where the disease can spread, making early detection a key in the best survival rates. The first step is to understand the three types of skin cancer, and how they differ from one another.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common of the three types of skin cancer, and the easiest to treat because it almost never spreads. Basal cell carcinoma is generally characterized by either a waxy bump that can appear on your face or neck, or a brown or flesh-colored mark that looks like a scar on your back or chest. In most cases of basal cell carcinoma, the damaged tissue is removed by either freezing or cutting out the tissue. It is generally done right in the doctor’s office with a local anesthesia, and involves minimal discomfort.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is the second most common of the three types of skin cancer, and is often as easy to treat as basal cell carcinomas. However, squamous cell carcinoma is slightly more likely to spread to other areas, usually to the surrounding tissue of the skin. Squamous cell carcinomas are characterized by a red nodule that can appear on your face, neck, hands or arms. This bump is generally firm to the touch, and can also show up on your lips or ears. It can also look like a scaly, crusty lesion that will appear on the same areas.


Melanoma is the least common of the three types of skin cancer, but it can become the most serious if left untreated. Of the three types of skin cancer, this is the one that can spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes and other organs. When it spreads (metastasizes) in this manner, it becomes significantly more difficult to treat. That is why early detection of melanoma is so important, and why you should get into your doctor every year for regular skin cancer screenings.

Understanding what the three types of skin cancer look like is the first step in keeping your skin safe and healthy. If you have any concerns about your skin, you should make an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation.

Related Information and Products

The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only international organization devoted solely to education, prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment of the world’s most common cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation -
Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. If you have skin cancer, it is important to know which type you have because it affects your treatment options and your outlook (prognosis). If you aren’t sure which type of skin cancer you have, ask your doctor so you can get the right information.
Skin Cancer | Skin Cancer Facts | Common Skin Cancer Types
Skin Cancer Overview. Skin cancer is the most common of all human cancers, with 1 million people in the U.S. diagnosed each year with some type of the disease.. Cancer occurs when normal cells ...