Overview of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer, like other forms of cancer, results from the unrestrained growth and division of cells. Perhaps because of our love for the sun, skin cancer is being reported more frequently every year. In fact, it is now the most common form of cancer.

Skin cancer is categorized as one of two general types, melanoma and non-melanoma. Both types are principally caused by excessive exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, and each type can be deadly.

There are four types of melanoma and two common types of non-melanoma cancer. The four types of melanoma are classified according to their respective growth patterns. They are superficial spreading melanoma (SSM), nodular melanoma (NM), acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), and lentigo maligna melanoma (LMM).

The two common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These types are the most common skin cancers, and BCC occurs more frequently than SCC. Although BCC and SCC are often treatable, malignant melanoma has a fatality rate unparalleled by either non-melanoma type. The types of skin cancer vary with regard to their cells of origination and the clinical presentation.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 24 Aug 2015