Common Types of Skin Cancer

As the largest organ in the body, the skin is vulnerable to several types of skin cancer. There are many malignancies that can affect the skin, but the large majority of cases can be classified as one of three types:

  • Basal cell carcinoma – This is the most common form of cancer in humans. Basal cell carcinoma forms in the skin’s basal cell layer, which is the deepest layer of the epidermis. Usually occurring on the neck, head, and other sun-exposed areas, basal cell carcinoma often appears as an open sore, shiny bump, red patch, or pink growth. It rarely spreads beyond the original tumor site, but prompt treatment is still necessary to avoid permanent disfiguration and to ensure it’s not an unusually severe case. About 8 out of 10 skin cancer cases are basal cell carcinomas according to the American Cancer Society. 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – The second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma affects the skin’s upper layers. Individuals with squamous cell carcinoma may develop open sores, raised growths, scaly red patches, or warts that bleed or crust on any sun-exposed area. If left unaddressed, the cancer may spread to surrounding tissues and become disfiguring or deadly. An estimated 700,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the U.S. every year according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
  • Melanoma – This is a much more serious type of malignancy that forms in the skin’s melanocytes. Melanoma can develop as a mole or grow from an existing mole, and most often appear to be black or brown with an irregular border. While it is far less likely to occur than basal and squamous cell carcinomas, it is more deadly. Early detection is key to a positive prognosis.

At Tampa General Hospital, our cancer specialists treat all types of skin cancer using expertise derived from years of practice, along with leading-edge medical technologies and cancer therapies designed to target specific malignancies.