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What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when the DNA inside of the cell is damaged. The type of skin cancer a person develops depends on the cell where the damage originally occurred. For example, basal cell carcinoma stems from a damaged basal cell, which is a type of cell that produces new skin cells when old ones die off.

There are three common types of skin cancers: Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. 

Types of Skin Cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma 

Basal cell carcinoma is the common skin cancer and accounts for approximately 80% of all cases. This type of skin cancer is often found in patients with fair skin, though anyone can develop it.

How Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Appear?

Basal cell carcinoma may look:

  • A slowly growing raised bumpy spot that doesn’t heal
  • A pink or shiny bump
  • Like a scab that keeps bleeding and healing but never goes away

Though basal cell carcinoma is not the most severe form of skin cancer, it is still extremely important to receive a diagnosis as early as possible. When left untreated, basal cell carcinoma can cause irreversible nerve and bone damage.

Since basal cell carcinoma is linked to heavy sun exposure, this type of skin cancer usually appears on exposed areas (places usually not covered by clothes) of the body. However, basal cell carcinoma can still appear anywhere on the body.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Behind basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. As with most skin cancers, patients with fair skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, though anyone can be diagnosed with the cancer. This type of cancer originates in the cells that make up the majority of the epidermis. Though squamous cell carcinoma appears on areas of the skin with heavy sun exposure, it can also develop on chronic sores and scars.

It is common for squamous cell carcinoma to develop from actinic keratosis, which is a precancerous skin growth that leaves dry, scaly patches or spots on the skin. For this reason, it’s important to identify and treat actinic keratosis early on.

Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:

  • A pink or red non healing slowly enlarging area
  • A red, hard bump or nodule, often times with a scab in the center

Fortunately, squamous cell carcinoma tends to grow slowly, making it less likely to spread to other areas of the body. However, this type of skin cancer is more likely to grow beneath the skin than basal cell carcinoma.


Melanoma is a skin cancer and can appear anywhere on the body, even areas that may not be exposed to the sun on a regular basis. Since it is not as heavily dependent on chronic, long term sun exposure as basal and squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma can affect even younger people. However, the sun can still cause or worsen melanoma. 

If not treated early on, Melanoma can spread rapidly throughout the body.

This type of cancer may look like:

  • A dark brown mole-like spot with scattered black speckles
  • A mole that consistently bleeds
  • An irritated lesion
  • A very large or asymmetrical mole
  • A lesion with an abnormal border, containing red, pink, white, blue or black areas

Melanoma may occur all over the body, even in uncommon areas such as the palms, inner mouth, nose, genitals, fingertips, or toes. 

Treatment & Removal

At the Aesthetic & Dermatology Center, we understand that finding a new lesion or mole on the face and body can be terribly stressful. For that reason, we will check every and any place you are concerned about on your skin during an exam. During these detailed check-ups, we examine each patient for any signs of skin cancers or precancerous moles. Our board-certified dermatologists are highly trained skin surgeons who can skillfully remove skin cancers, potential dangerous moles and any other unwanted skin growths. We pride ourselves on maintaining an open and honest dialogue in regards to prioritizing your skin health. 

Call our Rockville office today for a detailed skin exam or to book a free consultation: (301) 610-0663.