Types of Skin Cancer: What You Need to Know

Skin cancer involves the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells in the skin. Left untreated, these cells can spread to other tissues and organs, including the lymph nodes and bone. Read on for more information about the three main types of skin cancer and their treatments.


  • Basal Cell Carcinoma. Basal cells make up the lowest layer of the skin. Cancer of these cells is known as basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is most common on the head or neck and looks like raised, waxy pink bumps. This type of cancer is extremely common, but is slow growing and hardly ever spreads beyond the tumor site.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Squamous cells reside in the middle layer of the skin. Cancer of these cells, called squamous cell carcinoma, appears as red, scaly, and rough lesions on the hands, head, neck, lips, or ears. It is typically more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma.
  • Melanoma. Melanoma occurs in the skin cells that create pigment. It is far more dangerous than the other two types of skin cancer, but is less common. This type of cancer creates abnormal moles or lesions. Dermatologists look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, which include asymmetrical shape, border irregularities, color, diameter and evolution of the mole.

Treatments for Skin Cancer

The treatments for skin cancer that PD&CC offer vary based on the type of cancer and its severity.

  • Mohs Microscopic Surgery. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Mohs surgery is the most effective method for treating basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas. It is also used for certain types of melanoma. A Mohs surgeon uses a scalpel or curette to remove the tumor with a very thin layer of tissue around it. This layer is then immediately checked under a microscope. If the cancer is still present in the surrounding tissue, the procedure is repeated until the last layer viewed under the microscope is free of cancer.
  • Excisional Surgery. A dermatologist uses a scalpel to remove the entire growth and a surrounding border. The tissue is then sent to a laboratory to verify that all cancer cells have been removed.
  • Curette and Electrodissection. The tumor is scraped off with a curette and a needle sends electrical currents into the skin to destroy any remaining tumor.

Contact the Pacific Dermatology & Cosmetic Center for More Information about Skin Cancer

If you suspect you have skin cancer, contact the Pacific Dermatology & Cosmetic Center immediately. Our offices are located in Seattle, and we can be reached at (206)859-5777.

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