Types of skin cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, is a cancer of the basal cells at the bottom of the epidermis. It is sometimes called a rodent ulcer. It’s very common. About 75% of all skin cancers in the UK are BCCs. Most BCCs are very slow-growing and almost never spread to other parts of the body.
When BCCs are treated at an early stage, they are usually completely cured. However, some BCCs are aggressive, and, if left to grow, they may spread into the deeper layers of the skin and sometimes to the bones. This can make treatment difficult.
A small number of BCCs may come back in the same area of skin after treatment. This is known as a local recurrence.
Squamous cell carcinoma
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Squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, is a cancer of the keratinocyte cells in the outer layer of the skin. It’s the second most common type of skin cancer in the UK. Most people treated for SCC are completely cured with simple treatment. Usually, squamous cell carcinomas are slow-growing and only spread to other parts of the body if they are left untreated for a long time. Occasionally though, they can behave more aggressively and spread at a relatively early stage.
This is a less common type of skin cancer. Melanoma behaves differently to basal cell and squamous cell cancers. It can grow quickly and needs to be treated early. This section does not cover malignant melanoma, but we have separate information on malignant melanoma.
Rarer types of non-melanoma skin cancer
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There are some other rare types of skin cancer:
Less than 3% of all skin cancers in the UK are these rarer types of skin cancer.
is sometimes called squamous cell carcinoma in-situ. It’s caused by the abnormal growth of cells in the outer layer of the skin. These cells don’t spread into the deeper layers of the skin. If left untreated, Bowen’s disease may develop into squamous cell carcinoma.