Understanding the 3 Types of Skin Cancer

Understanding the 3 Types of Skin Cancer

Who doesn't love spending time outdoors, especially in sunny Southern California? However, while fresh air and being active are no doubt good for you, it's important to remember to protect yourself from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays, which can lead to skin cancer.

Whether you are seeking a natural-looking refresh of your appearance or have a health issue like skin cancer, Dr. Peter Karlsberg and his physician's assistant Michele Ayans can help. At the Ventura Institute for Dermatologic Arts in Ventura and Camarillo, California, we combine cutting-edge treatments that use both art and science for the best possible results.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is more common than all other cancers combined with almost 10,000 Americans receiving a diagnosis each day. Most often it is caused by UV rays from exposure to the sun and tanning beds that damage the skin's DNA resulting in mutations. These skin cell mutations can increase in number and create malignant tumors.

Types of skin cancer

There are three main kinds of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. In addition, there are other much less common types such as Merkel cell carcinoma and others.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. While often it is found in spots exposed to the sun like the face, scalp, ears, neck, shoulders, and back, it can appear anywhere including the chest, legs, and more.

This type of cancer can look like a round flesh-colored growth, a pearl-like bump, or a patch of skin that is pinkish in color. It may develop a scab or bleed. Without a prompt diagnosis and early treatment, it will start to invade and destroy healthy skin.  While basal cell carcinomas are slow-growing and rarely metastasize, they can cause damage and require surgery to remove.  Mohs micrographic surgery offers the highest cure rate and often allows for a smaller surgical scar.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type behind BCC. It also strikes the outermost layer of skin and is commonly found in places on the body exposed to UV radiation like the head, neck, and hands. SCC can look like a scaly patch, a firm red bump, or it can present as a sore that cycles through healing and re-opening. Anyone with one of these symptoms should get it checked out in a timely manner, as it can grow quickly and metastasize if not treated.  The highest cure rate for SCC is achieved with Mohs surgery.


Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer and early detection is critical. It can form within an existing mole or suddenly appear on the skin as a dark spot.

Experts recommend thinking according to the "ABCDE" rule when examining your skin and asking yourself the following questions. Is it Asymmetrical? Does it have an irregular Border? Do the Colors vary within it? Is the Diameter larger than the size of a pencil eraser? Is it Evolving or changing from how it appeared initially or what other marks on your skin look like?

The good news is when caught early, skin cancer can be highly treatable. If you see anything that looks abnormal or troubling, call us today at 805-214-6903 (Ventura) or 805-221-8789 (Camarillo) to make an appointment and get a proper diagnosis.

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