Skip to Content

Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is an irregular growth of skin cells that most often occurs when a person is exposed to sunlight.

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Melanoma
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanocytes, or cells in the moles, produce a pigment called melanin. When the melanocytes are exposed to additional sunlight, additional melanin is produced, causing a mole or lesion on the skin to darken.

With this form of skin cancer, early detection is the key. If a suspicious lesion is identified as melanoma, further testing will be conducted to determine what stage of cancer is present.

Treatment options for melanoma may consist of a combination of medical, radiation, and surgical therapies. To learn about the different options available at UPMC, visit UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Non-melanoma Skin Cancer

There are two types of non-melanoma skin cancer: basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, which rarely will spread throughout the body. It begins at the top layer of your skin and grows rather slowly and painlessly.

Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells of the skin, and usually occurs in darker-skinned individuals. It often spreads to other areas of the body.

The UPMC Skin Cancer Program is a team of experienced specialists who provide comprehensive care from diagnosis to treatment. For patients diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer, specifically in a cosmetically sensitive area, Mohs micrographic surgery offers the highest potential cure rate.

Two of our physicians are fellowship-trained in this outpatient procedure, in which the diseased tissue is removed in stages to preserve the healthy skin.

Learn more about Mohs micrographic surgery.