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Types of Skin Cancer

Please find the different types of skin cancer below.


Actinic Keratosis


  • High levels of ultraviolet radiation, such as from the sun’s rays.

Possible appearance and symptoms:

  • Rough, scaly, slightly raised growths.
  • Colour varies from browns to reds.
  • May become painful or itchy, may bleed or crust over.
  • Most common on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, neck, scalp, hands, shoulders, arms, back, ears, and lips.


  • These are not skin cancers, but it is important to have them treated, as they can evolve into squamous cell skin cancer.

Basal Cell Skin Cancer (the most common form of skin cancer)


  • Long-term exposure to sunlight.

Possible appearance and symptoms:

  • Flesh coloured or slightly reddish bump. May have a pearly border.
  • A sore (may appear pimple-like) that bleeds, crusts over, and reappears.
  • A red scaly patch.
  • Most common on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, neck, scalp, hands, shoulders, arms, back, ears, and lips.

Possible Treatment Options:

  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Surgical excision may be necessary

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer


  • Frequent and long-term sun exposure. Associated with immunosuppression.

Possible appearance and symptoms:

  • Pink, thick, or scaly nodules (raised growths that appear wart-like).
  • A sore that is open or crusted over.
  • Most common on the head/face, neck, and arms.

Possible Treatment Options:

  • Surgical excision
  • Radiation
  • Mohs surgery (a.k.a. chemosurgery)

Malignant Melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer)


  • Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation plays a leading role.
  • One blistering sunburn doubles the risk.
  • Tanning equipment use before the age of 35 increases the risk by 75%.

Possible appearance and symptoms:

Melanoma can spread quickly through blood and lymph vessels to vital organs such as the liver, lungs, and brain. Early detection can save your life! Visit the Canadian Dermatology Association to learn more about the ABCDEs of Melanoma:

  • Asymmetrical - uneven shape
  • Border - irregular or jagged
  • Colour - unusual or variation
  • Diameter - more than 6mm (may be less)
  • Evolution - change in appearance or symptoms (i.e. burning, bleeding, itching)

Possible Treatment Options

The treatment of choice is dependent on the stage of melanoma, but might include:

  • Surgery
  • Sentinel-node biopsy or excision
  • Radiation or chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
Date of creation: February 6, 2015
Last modified on: March 26, 2023


1Canadian Dermatology Association. Skin Cancer. Retrieved from