One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. It’s one of the most common cancers but is also one with the highest cure rate.

Early detection is key for beating skin cancer and that means being informed of what to look for can help potentially save your life.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of skin cells. It happens when your DNA is damaged, most often through ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. This triggers mutations or genetic defects within your skin cells that lead to rapid multiplication in the form of malignant tumors.

What are the different types of skin cancers?

There are many different types of cancers out there. When it comes to skin cancer, there are a few different types to be on the lookout for.

These are the different types of skin cancers:

  • Actinic Keratoses
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Let’s take a deeper look at what these different type of skin cancers look like.

Actinic Keratoses

This isn’t necessarily cancer yet. Actinic keratosis is a potential precancer that’s also known as solar keratosis. It’s a crusty, scaly growth caused by damage from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Oftentimes, there will not be just a single spot of actinic keratoses, hence the plural name for this potential skin cancer.

This type of precancer typically impacts older adults the most and is most commonly found on the face, lips, ears, back of the hands, forearms, scalp and neck. Over time, this patch can grow and spread, become more dangerous as it does so.

It’s very important if you have this to seek help from your dermatologist as soon as possible to ensure it has not yet become cancerous. This will likely be removed as a precaution in order to avoid skin cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. This type of skin cancer is often found on skin that’s been exposed to the sun, like your head, neck, chest, upper back, ears, lips, arms, legs, and hands.


Thankfully, this type of skin cancer is slow-growing and has a high cure rate with early detection. The best way to spot this type of cancer is to recognize what it looks like and get regular skin checks with your dermatologist.

Squamous cell carcinoma can sometimes look like a small pimple or cyst, but it can also look like a patch of discolored skin.

In order to catch this type of skin cancer, keep a lookout for any abnormal growing patches or areas of raised skin and seek dermatological assistance if you believe you may have a cancerous growth.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and is most commonly found in those with fair skin, though it can still be present in individuals with darker skin as well.


This type of skin cancer often presents as a flesh-colored bump reminiscent of a pearl or it can also look like a pink patch of skin. Those who have experienced years of overexposure to the sun are most likely to form basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is most often found on the head, neck, and arms, though you should be aware that it can form on any part of the body, particularly if you’re someone who indoor tans.

Early detection for basal cell carcinoma is key to avoid it spreading to nearby areas of your body, including your bones and nerves.


Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is the most likely of the skin cancers to metastasize. This is the type of skin cancer you can often find in moles that have changed or grown.

Melanoma can often appear as a mole at first and may even pop up as a mole to start. It’s important to keep the ABCDEs of melanoma in mind in order to catch it early.

The ABCDEs of skin cancer are:


A = Asymmetry

B = Border

C = Color

D = Diameter

E = Evolving

If you have a mole that fits these descriptions, seek dermatological assistance as soon as you can, as this cancer is far more deadly than others.

Regular, full-body skin checks are crucial to catching skin cancer early. Those with fair skin or excessive moles are encouraged to have more regular check-ups, though everyone should have their skin checked on a regular basis by a trained professional.