How Many Different Types of Carcinomas Are There? 6 Types

Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2021
How Many Different Types of Carcinomas Are There
Carcinoma is a type of cancer that develops on the skin or cells that cover internal organs. Learn about 6 of the most common types of carcinomas

Carcinoma is a type of cancer that develops on the skin or cells that cover internal organs, and it accounts for 80%-90% of all cancers:

  • Carcinoma in situ: Cancer has not spread from the initial affected layer of tissue to surrounding tissues or other parts of the body.
  • Invasive carcinoma: Cancer has spread to the surrounding tissues and is not confined to the initial affected area.
  • Metastatic carcinoma: Cancer has spread throughout the body to other tissues and organs.

6 common types of carcinomas

1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs in the deepest cell layer of the top layer of the skin. It is the most common type of skin cancer in the United States. Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of the body.


The primary cause of BCC is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation in the form of sunlight or tanning beds. Some factors that can increase the risk of getting BCC include:

  • Treatment of psoriasis
  • Weak immune system
  • History of skin cancer
  • Advanced age
  • Male gender
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Radiation exposure
  • Long-term skin inflammation or injury
  • Fair skin


Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • Scaly, red patches
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Shiny bumps or lumps
  • Raised scar-like areas
  • Pink growths

2. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It can also be found in the cell linings of the:

  • Digestive tract
  • Respiratory tract
  • Certain organs

SCC commonly affects the areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, such as the:

  • Face
  • Back of the hands
  • Lips
  • Ears
  • Neck

Overexposure to the sun is the most common cause of SCC. These carcinomas tend to grow and spread rapidly, unlike BCC.


Factors that can increase the risk of developing SCC include:

  • Male gender
  • Human papillomavirus infection
  • Smoking
  • Advanced age
  • Radiation exposure
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (sunlight or tanning beds)
  • History of skin cancer
  • Weak immune system
  • Psoriasis treatment
  • Long-term skin inflammation or injury
  • Fair skin


Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Sores that do not heal
  • Firm, red bump on sun-exposed skin that does not go away
  • Skin growth that looks like warts
  • Thickened skin on the lower lip that occurs due to smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Patch of skin that feels scaly, bleeds, or develops a crust
  • Spots that resemble age spots

3. Adenocarcinoma

Adenocarcinoma starts in the glands that line certain internal organs and releases substances such as digestive juices and mucus. Adenocarcinomas may occur in the:

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Colon
  • Stomach
  • Prostate
  • Pancreas
  • Esophagus


The most common causes of adenocarcinoma include:


Symptoms of adenocarcinoma vary depending on the area of the body affected.

4. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

DCIS is the earliest type of breast cancer and forms in the inner lining of the breast ducts. As these cancers have not spread to the surrounding tissue, survival rates are higher.



  • Lumps in the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple

5. Renal cell carcinoma

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer that grows as a single tumor within the kidney. Renal cell carcinoma is usually identified in a computed tomography scan or ultrasound or when the tumors have become extremely large.


Factors that may increase the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Family history of kidney cancer
  • Exposure to trichloroethylene
  • Advanced kidney cancer
  • African American ethnicity
  • Increased acetaminophen use
  • Certain conditions


Symptoms may appear in the advanced stages and include:

6. Merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is commonly found on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. The cancer cells grow and spread rapidly to other parts of the body.


Risk factors associated with Merkel cell carcinoma include:

  • Fair skin type
  • Advanced age (over 65)
  • Overexposure to the sun
  • Weak immune system


Warning signs of Merkel cell carcinoma include:

  • Painless, shiny lumps
  • Red, pink lumps


Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images See Slideshow

How are carcinomas treated?

Treatment for carcinoma may vary depending on the type, location, and extent of the disease. Options may include:

  • Surgery: Removal of the cancerous tissue with some surrounding tissue and an ideal option for long-term survival in the early stages.
  • Radiation therapy: Uses high-energy radiation to kill cancerous cells and may be used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy for best results.
  • Chemotherapy: Uses drugs that target and eliminate cancerous cells.

Other options include immunotherapy, hormonal therapy, specialized treatment (such as photodynamic therapy, cryosurgery, Mohs surgery, targeted therapy, and chemical peels).

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Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

Marta S. What Is Carcinoma? WebMD.

Stanford Health Care. Symptoms of Merkel Cell Carcinoma.

Cleveland Clinic. Adenocarcinoma Cancers.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. What is carcinoma?