Skin Cancer 101: Get the Facts

You hear about it all the time, but what exactly is skin cancer? 

  • Skin cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). The growths are caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations, leading the skin cells to rapidly multiply and from tumors. The leading causes of skin cancer are UV rays produced by the sun or tanning machines. There is some good news when it comes to skin cancers though! Most of them are treatable by your dermatologist if caught early on. 

Let’s get the facts on the 3 most common forms of skin cancer. 


Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

The most common skin cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, with more than 4 million cases seen a year. 

  • It is an abnormal growth that starts in the skin’s basal cells located in the epidermis. 

  • BCCs typically arise in spots most exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, ears, scalp, shoulders and back. 

  • The most common cause of BCCs is the exposure to UV radiation from the sun. It is a combination of the intensity of the rays and the length of time they are in contact with your skin. 

  • Around 3,000 people die from advanced BCC in the US each year.

  • What to look for:

    • Red crusty patches that don’t heal or keep bleeding

    • Open sores that don’t heal

    • Shiny bumps that grow over time

    • Pink growths that continue to change and bleed or itch 


Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, with more than 1 million cases diagnosed each year in the US.

  • It is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that forms in the squamous cells located in the epidermis. 

  • SCCs are typically found on sun exposed areas where the skin most often reveals sun damage, including wrinkles and sun spots. 

  • The most common cause for SCCs is long term exposure to UV rays from both the sun and tanning machines. 

  • Nearly 15,000 deaths occur from invasive SCC of the skin each year.

  • What to look for:

    • A wart like growth, scaly red patches with irregular borders, an elevated growth, an open sore that bleeds



Melanoma is the most dangerous of the 3 most common types of skin cancer. It is very curable if found early, but if not melanoma can spread to vital organs proving to be deadly.

  • Melanoma is a cancer that develops from the cells in the skin that produce melanin pigment, called melanocytes. These are the cells that give skin its color. 

  • It is caused by intense UV ray exposure from the sun and/or tanning machines when resulting in sunburn.

  • Each year in the US more than 178,00 cases of melanoma are diagnosed, causing around 9,000 deaths.

  • What to look for:

    • The ABCDEs of melanoma

      • Asymmetry - A line through the middle would not create matching halves

      • Border Irregularity - Uneven boarders or notched edges

      • Color variability - Different shades of brown, tan or black. As melanoma

        progresses, the colors red, white, and blue may even


      • Diameter - Melanomas are generally at least the size of a pencil eraser, about

        1/4 inch in diameter, but some may be smaller.

      • Evolving - Any change in appearance or symptom overtime such as bleeding,

        itching, or crusting, may be a sing of melanoma. 


Remember, if you have any concerns about possible skin cancer, Contact Us Now.

It could save your life!


“Skin Cancer 101”. The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal 2018: 26-27. Print.