Types of Skin Cancer

To plan the best treatment for each patient, your MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center doctor considers the location and size of the cancer; the risk of scarring; and the person's age, general health, and medical history.

Fortunately, when treated at an early stage of development, skin cancer has a very high rate of cure. Treatment for skin cancer usually involves some type of surgery. In some cases, doctors suggest radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Sometimes a combination of these methods is used.

Learn more about the types of skin cancer, including: 

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. It is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Basal cell carcinoma is almost always a slow-growing form of skin cancer.

Risk Factors

Basal cell cancer starts in the top layer of the skin called the epidermis. Most basal cell cancers occur on skin that is regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation.

This type of skin cancer is most common in people over age 40. But it can occur in younger people who have had extensive sun exposure.

You are more likely to get basal cell cancer if you have:

  • Light-colored or freckled skin
  • Blue, green, or grey eyes
  • Blonde or red hair
  • Overexposure to x-rays or other forms of radiation
  • Many moles
  • Close relatives who have or had skin cancer
  • Many severe sunburns early in life
  • Long-term daily sun exposure (such as the sun exposure received by people who work outside)

Symptoms

Basal cell cancer grows slowly and is usually painless. It may not look that different from your normal skin. You may have a skin bump or growth that is:

  • Pearly or waxy
  • White or light pink
  • Flesh-colored or brown

In some cases, the skin is just slightly raised or even flat.

You may have:

  • A skin sore that bleeds easily
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Oozing or crusting spots in a sore
  • A scar-like sore without having injured the area
  • Irregular blood vessels in or around the spot
  • A sore with a depressed (sunken) area in the middle

Treatment

Depending on the extent and location of your cancer, your team of surgical oncologists will recommend surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of cancer affecting the cells that make up the skin’s top layers, and it therefore generally affects the areas of skin exposed to the sun, including the limbs, head, and neck.

Risk Factors

  • Heavy exposure to sunlight and artificial light, including tanning beds
  • Diseases that affect the immune system, such as HIV
  • Medication that suppresses the immune system

Symptoms

The symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma may be similar to the symptoms for other problems. Make sure to talk with a doctor if you notice a lump that:

  • Appears on parts of the skin exposed to the sun such as the head, neck, arms and legs
  • Does not hurt
  • Grows quickly
  • Is red or purplish

Treatment

Depending on the extent and location of your cancer, your team of surgical oncologists will recommend surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.

After your treatment, our team will closely monitor recovery and may recommend repeating the imaging and diagnostic tests previously performed. These tests help us determine how well the treatment is working and make sure the cancer is not spreading or returning.

Squamous Cell Cancer

Squamous cell cancer is a common type of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma commonly starts in the bronchi and may not spread as rapidly as other lung cancers.

Risk Factors

Squamous cell cancer may occur in undamaged skin. Or it can occur in skin that has been injured or inflamed. Most squamous cell carcinomas occur on skin that is regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation.

Risks of squamous cell cancer include:

  • Having light-colored skin, blue or green eyes, or blonde or red hair
  • Long-term, daily sun exposure (such as in people who work outside)
  • Many severe sunburns early in life
  • Older age
  • Having had many x-rays
  • Chemical exposure

Symptoms

Squamous cell cancer usually occurs on the face, ears, neck, hands, or arms. It may occur on other areas. The main symptom is a growing bump that may have a rough, scaly surface and flat reddish patches.

The earliest form (squamous cell carcimoma in situ) can appear as a scaly, crusted, and large reddish patch that can be larger than 1 inch.

A sore that does not heal can be a sign of squamous cell cancer.

Treatment

Depending on the extent and location of your cancer, your team of surgical oncologists will recommend surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.

After your treatment, our team will closely monitor recovery and may recommend repeating the imaging and diagnostic tests previously performed. These tests help us determine how well the treatment is working and make sure the cancer is not spreading or returning.

Location Information

For a physician referral, please call 443-777-7900.

For more information about our clinical trials, please call 443-777-7364.

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Suite 2300
Baltimore, MD 21237

Additional Location

Maryland Melanoma Center Eastern Shore
Robert Davis, MD, PhD
1344 South Division Street
Suite 202
Salisbury, MD 21804
Phone: 410-543-8880

Melanoma Specialists