Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer.
They usually form on the head, face, neck, hands and arms. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is more dangerous but less common. Anyone can get skin cancer, but it is more common in people who:
- Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned
- Have light-colored skin, hair and eyes
- Have a family member with skin cancer
- Are over age 50
You should have your doctor check any suspicious skin markings and any changes in the way your skin looks. Treatment is more likely to work well when cancer is found early. If not treated, some types of skin cancer cells can spread to other tissues and organs.
Signs and symptoms of basal and squamous cell skin cancers
Skin cancers rarely cause bothersome symptoms until they become quite large. Then they may bleed or even hurt.
Basal cell carcinomas often appear as flat, firm, pale areas or small, raised, pink or red, translucent, shiny, waxy areas that may bleed after a minor injury. They may have one or more visible abnormal blood vessels, a depressed area in their center, and/or blue, brown, or black areas. Large basal cell carcinomas may have oozing or crusted areas.
Squamous cell carcinomas may appear as growing lumps, often with a rough surface, or as flat reddish patches in the skin that grow slowly.
Both of these types of non-melanoma skin cancer may develop as a flat area showing only slight changes from normal skin.
Read our full list of skin cancer prevention tips:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day.
- Apply sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.