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What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of the abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations or genetic defects that lead the skin cells to multiply quickly and form malignant tumors. There are different types of skin cancers including: basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer, and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma:

  • Pearly or waxy bump
  • Flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
  • Bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and returns

Squamous cell carcinoma:

  • Firm, red nodule
  • Flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface


  • Large brownish spot with darker speckles
  • Mole that changes in color, size or feel, or that bleeds
  • Small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black
  • Painful lesion that itches or burns
  • Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus

Skin Cancer Causes

  • Fair skin – having less pigment in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair and light colored eyes with freckles or easily sunburn you are more likely to develop skin cancer
  • History of sunburns – having one or more blistering sunburns as a child/teenager/adult increases your likelihood of developing skin cancer as an adult
  • Excessive sun exposure – a considerable time in the sun may develop skin cancer especially if the skin is not protected by sunscreen or clothing. Tanning and tanning lamps/beds also put you at risk. A tan is your skin’s injury response to excessive UV radiation
  • Sunny or high-altitude climates – sunny, warm climates and are exposed to more sunlight
  • Moles – people with many moles or abnormal moles are at increased risk of skin cancer
  • Precancerous skin lesions – skin lesions known as actinic keratoses can increase your risk. They appear as rough, scaly patches that range in color from brown to dark pink and are most common on the face, head and hands of fair skinned individuals whose skin has been sun damaged
  • Family history of skin cancer – if one of your parents or a sibling has had cancer you may have an increased risk
  • Weakened immune system – this includes people living with HIV/AIDS and those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant
  • Exposure to radiation – people who receive radiation treatment for skin conditions like eczema and acne may have an increased risk, primarily basal cell carcinoma
  • Exposure to certain substances-substances such as arsenic may increase your risk