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Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Skin cancer accounts for more than 50 percent of all cancers in the United States. 

Types of skin cancer

There are three basic types of skin cancer and some pre-cancerous skin conditions. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.


Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Only about 3 percent of all skin cancers are melanoma, but these 3 percent account for about 75 percent of all cancer deaths. Melanoma develops when damage to the DNA in skin cells leads to mutations in the genes, and these mutations can lead to skin cells multiplying quickly. When the cells multiply faster than they should, cancerous tumors can develop. Melanoma tumors (or lesions) begin in the melanocytes, which are the skin cells that produce pigment. Pigment is what gives our skin its color. 

Melanoma lesions often look like moles, and some develop from moles that were once normal. While most melanomas are brown or black, they can be blue, purple, pink, red, grey, tan, white, and skin-colored. Melanomas often resemble moles. Some develop from moles. 
In the US, melanoma causes nearly ten thousand deaths per year, but if it is diagnosed and treated early, it can usually be cured. 
If you have any signs or symptoms of melanoma, contact your doctor right away and get checked out.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that begin in the skin’s basal cells. Basal cells line the deepest layer of the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin. Basal cell carcinoma may look like a sore, a shiny bump, a scar, or a red or pink patch or growth on the skin. Most BCCs are caused by both intense and cumulative UV-A and UV-B rays. It is most common in people with light hair, eyes, and complexion. 

Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads beyond the site where it developed, but it can grow and become disfiguring, so it should be evaluated and treated as soon as you find it. It is the most common type of all cancers, and it accounts for about 75 percent of all skin cancers. 

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) occurs when the squamous cells in the epidermis begin to grow abnormally. SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer, accounting for about 20 percent of all skin cancer cases. It is sometimes called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma or CSCC. 

Squamous cell skin cancer may look like sores; red, scaly patches of skin; or warts or raised growths that have a lower center, like an indentation. SCCs can bleed or become crusty. They can occur all over the body, including in the eyes, nose, mouth and genitals, but they are most likely to occur in areas that get frequent sun exposure, like the face, the edge of the ear, exposed areas of the scalp, the neck, hands, arms and legs. It is usually found in people with fair skin. Most SCCs are caused by intense and cumulative UV-A and UV-B rays. Experts believe that tanning beds are leading to the increase in SCCs in young women.

Skin cancer care at Beaumont

If you have any signs and symptoms of skin cancer, including melanoma, see a doctor right away to have a skin exam. You should also talk to your doctor about your risks for developing skin cancer and whether you should do skin self-examinations and have professional skin exams. Beaumont dermatologists can diagnose and treat skin cancer, including performing Mohs’ surgery.

Call 877-232-8226 today to schedule an appointment with a Beaumont dermatologist or to get a referral.