What Are The Different Types Of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells that develops mostly when the skin is exposed to harmful sun rays. Depending on the involvement of the cells the skin cancer is categorized into three types.

Types of skin cancer:
Actinic keratoses

It is a precancerous growth and appears as rough, red or pink, scaly patches on the skin mostly exposed to the sun. This condition is more likely to develop in individuals who are more than 40 years of age as it occurs due to repeated sun exposure or use of tanning beds over years. Actinic keratoses, if left untreated, leads to the development of squamous cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

It is the most common type of skin cancer (about 70 cases, out of 100 skin cancer cases are of BCC type). It develops in the basal cells, present in the epidermis. It is characterized by red, or pink colored bumps on the skin. In later stages, these lesions appear in the form of an ulcer or a sore. When a minor injury occurs, these lesions may bleed as they involve superficial blood vessels. This cancer can develop anywhere on the body but is usually seen on the head, neck, and arms. It can locally invade nerves and bones leading to the impairment of growth and function. It has a slow progression but can lead to metastasis.

Squamous cell carcinoma

It is the second most common type of skin cancer. It is characterized by a red, thickened spot or bump or scaly patch that bleeds or ulcerates. It develops in cells called keratinocytes, present in the epidermis. It is more aggressive, with a faster progression than BCC. It can develop in scars, and areas that have been previously burnt or ulcerated.


It is a less commonly seen skin cancer but is the most aggressive and life-threatening form of all the skin cancer types. It develops in the melanocytes, melanin producing cells. These cells are responsible for the skin pigmentation.  It is characterized by black or brown colored asymmetric skin lesions with irregular borders. The physicians usually say it has an ‘abcde’ pattern that indicates:

  • a-asymmetry
  • b-border irregularity
  • c-color
  • d-diameter
  • e-evolution of the lesion

Nodular melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. It is invasive and penetrates deep into the skin from the time of occurrence.

Kaposi’s sarcoma

It develops in the cells that line the blood vessels and lymph nodes. It appears as a tumor in the mucosal surfaces of the mouth, throat, nose, and other parts of the body such as lymph nodes, the lungs, etc. it is characterized by red or purple patches or spots. It is caused by the herpes virus and is also seen in patients with a compromised immune system (such as in patients with HIV or AIDS).

Bowen’s disease

It is a precancerous growth that is characterized by a red scaly growth on the skin. It forms in the squamous cells, and if left untreated, can develop into squamous cell carcinoma.


It is a rare type of skin cancer. It develops in the dermis layer of the skin. It appears as a bruise or a pimple.

Spots, blemishes, and moles on the skin are quite common. They are harmless and may occur due to skin damage. However, in certain cases, they may be signs of something more dangerous. If there are further changes in appearance and sensation, consult your doctor immediately.

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