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Skin Cancer

Types of skin cancer

When people think of skin cancer they most often think of melanoma; however, melanoma isn’t the only type of skin cancer. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer in the past or you have a family history of skin cancer, it’s important to understand the different kinds of cancers, their warning signs and when you should visit a dermatologist for an evaluation or routine screening.

Here are the most common forms of skin cancer,

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) make up the majority of skin cancer diagnoses in the US each year. While they can develop just about anywhere on the body they are more likely to appear on areas exposed to the sun such as the hands, shoulders, neck, chest and face. Warning signs of BCCs include,

  • An open sore or wound that crusts or bleeds and doesn’t heal
  • A shiny clear, pink or white bump on the skin
  • A white or pink scar-like patch on the skin
  • A red or pink growth that is raised along the edges but indented in the center (you may see blood vessels develop in the center of the growth over time)
  • A red, irritated patch of skin, particularly on the scalp, face, chest or arms

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are the second most common form of skin cancer and just like BCCs, they are most often found on sun-exposed areas of the body or face. They develop gradually but are more likely than BCCs to spread deeper into the tissue. Some warning signs include,

  • A red hard bump or sore that doesn’t heal
  • A flat sore that crusts over or is scaly
  • A scaly patch or growth that turns into a sore or ulcer
  • Red sores or patches in the mouth
  • A bump, patch or lesion that develops on the neck, face, arms, chest, back or ears

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

This is a rarer form of skin cancer that is considered aggressive because of its ability to spread quickly and return even after treatment. Those who are often exposed to the sun, are over 50 years old and don’t wear sunscreen are more at risk for MCC. Signs and symptoms include,

  • A pink, red or purple growth or lesion that is typically painless
  • A growth, lesion or bump that grows larger in just a few weeks or months
  • A spot that may be mistaken for a bug bite, sore, lesion, or cyst


Melanoma is known as the most dangerous form of skin cancer, mostly because of its ability to spread quickly. Melanoma often affects moles that you’ve had all your life, so checking your moles regularly and then seeing a dermatologist once a year for a skin cancer screening can help to catch melanoma early. When examining your moles here’s what to look for,

  • Asymmetry: a mole or growth that isn’t perfectly symmetrical on both sides
  • Borders: poorly defined or blurry borders
  • Color: a growth that contains multiple colors
  • Diameter: lesions or bumps larger than a pencil eraser (6mm)
  • Evolving: any growth or mole that changes color, shape, size or begins to crust, crack or bleed

Dealing with a suspicious mole? Concerned about your risk for skin cancer? If so, schedule a skin cancer screening with our northern Nevada dermatologists. Call Carson Dermatology at (775) 883-7811.

Serving Patients In Carson City, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Sparks, NV

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