Understanding the Types of Skin Cancer

Understanding the Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. In fact, one in five people will get skin cancer by age 70.

Skin cancer develops slowly. And if it’s left untreated, it can be deadly. The good news is that when skin cancer is identified and treated early, survival rates are extremely high.

Protecting your health starts with understanding skin cancer and its symptoms. Oswald Mikell, MD, and our team at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry specialize in skin cancer checks and treatment.

Read on to learn about the most common types of skin cancer and how you can keep your skin healthy.

The most common types of skin cancer

Skin cancer is any type of abnormal cell growth in your skin, but there are three types of skin cancer that make up most cases.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common and most treatable type of skin cancer. It often starts as a small bump on your nose, cheeks, or other part of your head that gets a lot of sun exposure.

Basal cell carcinoma lesions grow slowly, and this type of skin cancer is unlikely to spread to other parts of your body. Dr. Mikell treats BCC by removing the lesion and affected tissue.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It appears on skin after excessive UV exposure, and the lesions can take on a variety of appearances, including a wart-like bump, an open sore, or a red, scaly patch of skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma is more likely to spread to nearby tissues, bones, and lymph nodes than BCC, but it’s still quite treatable when identified early. Small cancers may be treated by laser therapy or excision. Larger areas may need Mohs surgery or topical chemotherapy.


Melanoma is less common than BCC and SCC, but it’s much more aggressive. Melanomas look like dark, large, or irregular moles, and they can develop almost anywhere on the body.

Melanoma can spread to other areas of the body more easily than nonmelanoma cancers. This is the skin cancer most likely to cause death, making prompt identification and treatment essential. When it’s detected early, the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99%

Detecting skin cancer early

The best way to prevent developing skin cancer is to familiarize yourself with your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you perform a self-examination once a month to look for signs of skin cancer.

Different types of skin cancer look different, so it’s important to learn what skin cancer can look like. Dr. Mikell and our team specialize in comprehensive skin exams, and we’re here to help you learn what you should look for in your skin self-exams.

The ABCDE method can help you recognize potential melanomas:

Along with self-exams, we recommend annual dermatology exams. Dr. Mikell performs head-to-toe checks, monitoring your existing moles and looking for anything new.

If he identifies an area of concern, he can order additional testing. There are many ways to treat skin cancer, and Dr. Mikell can work with you to choose the best treatment for your needs.

To have your skin examined and to learn how you can keep your skin healthy, book an appointment over the phone with Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry today.

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