Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and affects many people around the world. While skin cancer can usually be prevented by limiting time in the sun, it can also occur due to other factors. There are three common types of skin cancer: Squamous cell, Basal cell, and Melanoma.

Basal Cell

Basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer and is also the easiest to cure. It begins in the basal layer of the skin and is frequently found in areas that are commonly exposed to the sun. Individuals with fair skin tones have a higher risk of developing basal cell skin cancer, though any skin type may develop it. Although rare, this type of skin cancer may spread to other areas of the body.

Squamous Cell

Squamous cell skin cancer is a common type of skin cancer. It is caused by UV exposure over the course of a lifetime, and most commonly occurs in areas that are frequently exposed to the sun. This form of cancer may spread to other areas of the body, though it is rare.


Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and is caused by overexposure to UV rays. It can occur on any area of the body but is most commonly found on the back, chest, neck, and face. Melanoma can easily spread to other areas of the body it if is not treated.


The diagnosis of skin cancer can ultimately only be done by a doctor. To diagnose skin cancer, your doctor may examine your skin to determine where skin changes are likely to be skin cancer. They may also remove any suspicious-looking skin for lab testing. A biopsy can help to determine if skin cancer is present, and if so, what kind of skin cancer you have. There a couple of types of skin biopsies, including:

Shave Biopsy

Involves a scalpel shaving off the suspected growth. There are no stitches involved with this form of biopsy.

Excisional Biopsy

Involves the entire growth and surrounding tissue is removed. Stitches are used to help close the wound. This excision technique is commonly used when melanoma is suspected.

After the biopsy, the growth will be examined under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous, and if so, the severity of the condition.

Determining the Extent of the Skin Cancer

If it is determined that you have skin cancer, you may have to undergo additional tests to determine the stage of the skin cancer.

Superficial skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma rarely spread, so a biopsy which removes the entire growth is usually the only test needed to determine the stage of cancer. However, if you have a large squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, or melanoma, you may need further tests to determine the extent of cancer. These tests may include imaging to examine nearby lymph nodes or a sentinel lymph node biopsy.

If you believe you may have a suspicious growth or skin cancer, contact our office today to schedule an examination by one of our dermatologists.