Are there different forms of skin cancer, and how does it develop?

There are three different types of skin cancer, and each is named for the type of cell that becomes cancerous, according to the National Cancer InstituteOff Site Icon (NCI).

The three types of skin cancer, according to the NCI, are:

  • Basal cell: The face is the most common place to find this type of skin cancer, which usually occurs in places that have been exposed to the sun. Basal cell skin cancer is the most common form for people with fair skin to have.
  • Melanoma: This type of cancer can happen on any surface skin, but on men it’s most common on the head, neck and between the shoulders and hips. In women, it’s most often on the lower legs or between the shoulders and hips. Melanoma is rare in people with dark skin, but if they do have it, it is usually found under the fingernails, under the toenails, on the palms of their hands or the soles of their feet.
  • Squamous cell: This is the most common form of cancer in people with dark skin, for whom it is usually found in places that are not frequently in the sun, such as the legs and feet. In fair-skinned people, this cancer usually occurs on the head, face, ears and neck, which have been exposed to sun.

Skin cancer develops as regular skin cells start to grow abnormally, according to the American Academy of DermatologyOff Site Icon (AAD). Oftentimes it develops on parts of the skin that have been exposed to the sun without proper protection, like sunscreen.

For more information about types of skin cancer and how it develops, talk with your doctor.

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