Different types of skin cancer

Most people are aware that you should check your moles and see your doctor if you notice any changes. But, skin cancer that isn’t related to moles is more common than mole-related skin cancer, so it is important to look out for skin changes that might be markers for other types of skin cancer as well.

The three main types of skin cancers are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma 
  • Melanoma. 

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer with over 3,500 new cases reported each year in Ireland. It often appears as small, red or pearly lump that may grow slowly and rarely spreads . BCCs tend to grow slowly, often over months or even years, and rarely spread to other parts of the body. They occur most often on the head, neck and upper torso, though they may appear on other parts of the body. BCC is more common in the elderly however some people may develop BCC in their twenties and thirties.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a less common but more serious type of skin cancer than BCC. Although it grows slowly, early diagnosis and treatment is extremely important. SCCs generally arise within areas of sun damaged skin and tend to appear as red, thickened, scaly spots which may bleed or ulcerate. They grow over weeks or months and can spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body if not treated quickly. SCCs most often appear on the head, neck, hands and forearms, though can grow on other parts of the body too. SCC is more common in older age groups.


Malignant melanoma

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanoma usually occurs on parts of the skin that have been sun damaged. However, it can sometimes appear on skin or other parts of the body that have never been exposed to the sun. In most cases, melanomas appear as a flat spot or as mole on the skin that changes in colour, shape and/or size over a period of time. If left untreated, this flat spot may become bigger, irregular in shape and darker in colour. Melanoma is diagnosed more often in older adults with fair complexions but can occur in younger adults and teenagers. Melanoma causes 60% of deaths related to skin cancer in Ireland each year. It is the most common cancer in people aged 15-34. It is important to Check Your Skin regularly so that you can alert your doctor if any changes occur in moles. 


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