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Most common types of skin cancer

August 2007

Basal cell carcinoma begins in the lowest layer of the epidermis, called the basal cell layer, and is usually found in are as exposed to the sun such as the head and neck. It grows slowly and is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the upper part of the epidermis and usually appears on areas of the body such as the face, ears, neck, lips and backs of the hands. It is more likely to invade fatty tissues just beneath the skin and is likely to spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Melanoma begins in the melanocytes (cells in the epidermis that produce melanin or skin pigment). It can occur anywhere on the skin. The trunk is the most common site in men. In women, the legs are most commonly affected. The neck and face are other common sites. Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but is more dangerous.

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society

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Updated 12/11/14