dermatologist examining patient for skin cancer

The Three Main Types of Skin Cancers — and How to Prevent Them

While sunlight exposure has many benefits for people, like boosting your mood and producing vitamin D, it can also be extremely harmful to your skin if you do not use the proper protection. 

We now have a wide range of sunscreens, protective clothing, and equipment to save us from the sun rays. However, in 2020, it was found that 46% of people in the United States never wear sunscreen. With one out of seven Americans diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, you should protect your skin and get skin cancer screenings regularly.

What Are the Most Common Types of Skin Cancer?

The three most common types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Affecting around 800,000 Americans a year, Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed skin cancer. It occurs most frequently on sun-exposed areas of the body and is a result of chronic sun exposure. It very rarely spreads or metastasizes, but it can cause destruction to tissues surrounding the skin cancer. It usually first appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule on your skin. BCC is typically diagnosed in middle-aged individuals, but more and more are found on people in their 20s and 30s due to factors like tanning beds.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous Cell Carcinoma forms on the outer layer of your skin and will appear as a bump or red scaly patch of skin. It is also a result of chronic sun exposure. If left untreated, SCC can destroy underlying tissue. SCC may also spread or metastasize to other parts of the body in a small percentage of cases. With 250,000 new cases a year, middle-aged and older people with fair complexions are more likely to develop SCC. 

Malignant Melanoma

The deadliest of the three, Malignant Melanoma, affects about 73,000 people a year while causing almost 9,000 deaths. Sometimes it can pop up unexpectedly or near a mole. It can be curable if found in the early stages of development. People with fair skin, light eye and hair color, and those with a history or family history of melanoma are at an increased risk of developing a melanoma.  There has also been a rise in people who partake in indoor tanning getting melanoma due to the UV rays.


  • A is for Asymmetry: one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half
  • B is for Border Irregularity: the edges may be notched or jagged
  • C is for Color Variation: different shades of tan, brown, black, or even blue
  • D is for Diameter: greater than 6mm or the size of a pencil erasure
  • E is for Evolving: moles that change in size, shape, or color over time

Preventing Skin Cancer

While it is hard to avoid the sun, it doesn’t mean that you can’t prevent skin cancer from forming on your body.  Everyone likes to be tan, but you run the risk of skin cancer and premature aging without protecting your skin. Here are some ways you can protect your skin:

  • Avoid unnecessary UV rays like in tanning beds
  • Remain in the shade as much as possible during hot, sunny days 
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is 30 SPF or higher for everyday use
  • Tend to burn quickly? Wear wide brimmed hats and other sun protective clothing to protect your skin
  • Wear UV protection sunglasses

You shouldn’t be afraid to live your life in the sun. With the proper precautions and routine checks with a dermatologist, you can bring down your risk of skin cancer. Don’t know how often to see a dermatologist? The highly certified professionals at Wilson Dermatology are here to help keep you and your skin healthy. For more information, contact us today!