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Types of Skin Cancer

The three most common types of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and melanoma is the least common type.
Most basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be cured, but people with these types of skin cancer have a higher risk for developing other skin cancers. Melanoma causes about 75 percent of skin cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Risk Factors

Skin cancer risk factors include:
  • Being exposed to a lot of natural or artificial sunlight
  • Having scars or burns on the skin
  • Being exposed to arsenic
  • Having chronic skin inflammation or skin ulcers
  • Being treated with radiation
  • Taking immunosuppressive drugs (for example, after an organ transplant)
  • Having actinic keratosis
  • Having a fair complexion (blond or red hair, fair skin, green or blue eyes, history of freckling).


Not all changes in the skin are a sign of skin cancer, but a doctor should be consulted if changes in the skin are seen.
Possible symptoms of skin cancer include:
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A rough, red, pink, or brown, raised, scaly patch on the skin
  • Cracking or peeling of the lower lip that is not helped by lip balm or petroleum jelly.
Other possible symptoms include areas of the skin that are:
  • Small, raised, smooth, shiny, and waxy
  • Small, raised, and red or reddish-brown
  • Flat, rough, red or brown, and scaly
  • Scaly, bleeding, or crusty
  • Similar to a scar and firm to the touch.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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