Skin Cancer

Sun Safety - Spotting skin cancer (5min 25sec)

Types of Skin Cancer

The Three Main types of Skin Cancer Are

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma
  • Squamous Cell Carcinmoa
  • Malignant Melanoma

Basel Cell Carinonoma

BCC is a cancer of the basal cells located at the bottom of the epidermis. This type of Skin Cancer is very common and accounts for more than 75% of all skin cancers in the UK currently. The majority of BCC’s are very slow-growing and rarely spread to other parts of the body. BCC’s will mostly start as a small, Red shiny spot or nodule that can bleed on occasion.

The Skin over the top of many BCC’s can remain intact for months. However eventually they may develop into an ulcer that won’t heal. If BCC’s are treated at an early stage, the majority of the time they can be completely 100% cured. Though in some BCC cases that are more aggressive, and if ignored and left to grow they can possibly spread into deeper layers of the skin.

Local Recurrence is when a small number of BCC’s come back into the same area of skin after treatment has been completed.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

SCC is a cancer of the cells that is found in the outer layer of the skin. SCC is currently the 2nd most common type of skin cancer in the UK. There is a high statistic of 1 in 5 cancers being this type. SCC is usually slow-growing and only spreads to other parts of the body if left untreated for a long period of time. Though, the majority of people treated for SCC are 100% cured with simple treatment.

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant Melanoma’s are a less common type of skin cancer than previously mentioned. Around 11,000 people in the United Kingdom are currently diagnosed with this condition each year. Malignant Melanoma act differently to the other two types of skin cancer because it can grow quickly and needs to be treated early on.

Rarer Types of Skin Cancer

  • Sarcoma
  • Merkel Cell Carcinoma
  • Kaposi’s Sarcoma
  • Cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma of the Skin

Risk Factors and possible Causes

Sun Exposure

Top of the List is exposure to UV light that can damage our skin cells and cause skin cancer. By overexposing yourself to the sun or suffering from sunburn in childhood you can increase the risk factors in the development of basal cell cancers.  Over exposure to the sun over a lifetime is more prominent for squamous cell cancers.

Over the years skin cancer has become more and more common. There are several likely reasons for this;

  • People living longer, hence more lifetime exposure to the sun
  • People enjoying more outdoor activities and holidays in sunny climates
  • Fashion Statement of Suntans to be healthy and attractive
  • The regular use of Sunlamps and Sunbeds

Exposure to Certain Chemicals

Quite a rare possible cause for non-melanoma skin cancer is overexposure to certain chemicals in the work place which include;

  • Soot
  • Cool Tar
  • Asphalt
  • Cutting oils
  • Arsenic

Those who work outdoors for a living are at a higher risk rate of developing skin cancer due to their prolonged exposure to the sun. This can be relevant in both squamous cell and basal cell cancers.


Two of the Skin Cancers Mentioned above can appear in a range of forms. Most commonly they are painless and grow slowly. They can occur anywhere on your body, though most commonly appear on exposed skin such as your neck or face.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • Itchy
  • Develop a Crust or possible Scab
  • Occasionally bleeds
  • Looks like a Firm, Red Lump
  • Appears Waxy
  • Smooth and pearly
  • Develop into to a painless ulcer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This type of Skin cancer most commonly occur in areas that have been affected and damaged by sun exposure. Usually found on the Neck, Face, Bald Scalps, Arms, Backs of hands and lower legs.

  • Tender to touch
  • Have a hard, horny cap
  • The skin is raised in the area of the cancer
  • Looks Scaly

Abnormal Changes in your Skin

If you happen to notice any strange unusual changes on your skin that persists and doesn’t disappear within a month then we advise you show it to your doctor.


Currently more than 90% of people with either Basal Cell or Squamous Cell cancers are cured by Cancer Treatment.

We now have a range of treatments for skin cancer – options  offered to you by your doctor will depend on several different factors that may include the size of the skin cancer, its location and your biopsy results. Its also sometimes practice that your specialist will want to monitor your cancer first before beginning treatment immediately.

Current Treatments for Skin Cancer

Surgery – Now an important treatment for a range of skin cancers.

Cryotherapy – This treatment can destroy cancer cells using liquid nitrogen to freeze them.  This is a quick way of treating smaller, lower risk skin cancers such as superficial basal cell carcinomas

Radiotherapy – This treatment will sometimes be used instead of surgery. It can be very effective for treating basal and squamous cell carcinomas, it can also be given as treatment after surgery if there’s still a risk factor of some cancer cells still being present.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) this treatment uses light sources, taken with a  light-senstive drug to destroy cancer cells.

Topical chemotherapy – This is an effective chemotherapy cream used to treat squamous cell carcinomas and superficial basal cell carcinomas.

Topical Immunotherapy – Another cream called imiquimod, this cream can be used to treat some basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.

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