Skin Cancer (Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer or Keratinocyte Cancer)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Sun damaged skin

Skin Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer and has a predilection for sun-exposed skin. Tumors may appear as a pearly or waxy bumps usually with visible blood vessels (nodular BCC), or as a flat scaly reddish patch (superficial BCC) with a brown border, or as a hard or scar-like lesion (sclerosing BCC). Frequently BCCs can be itchy, often bleed, or in more advanced cases, ulcerate.

Quick GuideSkin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images

Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is a common and locally destructive cancerous (malignant) growth of the skin. It originates from the cells that line up along the membrane that separates the superficial layer of skin from the deeper layers. Unlike cutaneous malignant melanoma, the vast majority of these sorts of skin cancers have a limited potential to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize) and become life-threatening.

There are three major types of skin cancer: (1) basal cell carcinoma (the most common) and (2) squamous cell carcinoma (the second most common), which originate from skin cells, and (3) melanoma, which originates from the pigment-producing skin cells (melanocytes) but is less common, though more dangerous, than the first two varieties.

What are the risk factors for skin cancer?

The most common risk factors for skin cancer are as follows.

  • Ultraviolet light exposure, either from the sun or from tanning beds. Fair-skinned individuals, with hazel or blue eyes, and people with blond or red hair are particularly vulnerable. The problem is worse in areas of high elevation or near the equator where sunlight exposure is more intense.
  • A chronically suppressed immune system (immunosuppression) from underlying diseases such as HIV/AIDS infection or cancer, or from some medications such as prednisone or chemotherapy
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation (X-rays) or chemicals known to predispose to cancer such as arsenic
  • Certain types of sexually acquired wart virus infections
  • People who have a history of one skin cancer have a 20% chance of developing a second skin cancer in the next two years.
  • Elderly patients have more skin cancers.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/30/2016

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Cancer Report Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors