Skin Cancer: Common types and recognising symptoms

Skin Cancer Scotland

Fast Facts

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What is skin cancer and what are the most common types?

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a serious condition characterised by the abnormal growth of skin cells.

It is primarily caused by damage to the skin's DNA, usually triggered by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds.

This DNA damage leads to mutations in the skin cells, causing them to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.

There are three main types of skin cancer:

1.- Basal Cell Carcinoma,

2.- Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and

3.- Melanoma cancer

Lets describe each of them and their symptoms, for you to have more understanding about all of it.

Basal Cell Carcinoma treatment

1 - Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma:


This is the most common type of skin cancer. It often appears as a pearly or waxy bump or a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion. Basal cell carcinoma typically occurs in areas frequently exposed to the sun. These areas include the face, ears, neck, scalp, and shoulders.


However, it can occur on any part of the body, including areas not typically exposed to sunlight.

Basal Cell Carcinoma arises from the basal cells. Basal cells are found in the lowest layer of the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.


Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma:


  • Basal cell carcinomas might present as open sores that heal and then reopen. These wounds can bleed, ooze, or crust over, and they tend not to heal completely.


  • Reddish Patches: BCC can appear as flat, reddish patches that might be itchy or scaly.


  • Shiny bumps or nodules can also appear as raised, shiny, pink, pearly, or translucent bumps or nodules. These might have visible blood vessels or a depressed centre.


  • Pink Growth with Rolled Borders: Basal cell carcinomas can appear as a pink growth. It has slightly raised, rolled borders, and a central indentation.


  • Scar-like Areas: Some BCCs may resemble a scar or be waxy and pale in appearance.


What do you need to do if you have some of these symptoms?


It’s crucial to consult a dermatologist promptly. Basal cell carcinoma typically progresses slowly and rarely spreads. However, it’s crucial to identify it early for effective treatment.


2 - Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma:


This is the most common type of skin cancer. It often appears as a pearly or waxy bump. Or, it can appear as a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion. Basal cell carcinoma occurs on areas frequently exposed to the sun. These areas include the face, ears, neck, scalp, and shoulders.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma skin cancer manifests as a firm, red nodule. It may also appear as a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface. It tends to appear on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, neck, arms, and hands. It can also develop in scars or chronic skin sores.


It’s important to note that squamous cell carcinoma can occur on any part of the body, but it is more commonly found on areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, neck, hands, arms, and legs. However, it can also develop in areas that are not regularly exposed to sunlight.


Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma are the following:


  • Persistent Bumps or Scaly Patches: SCC can manifest as persistent, rough, scaly, or crusty bumps or patches on the skin. These areas might bleed easily or form a sore that does not heal.
  • Thickening Skin or Raised Growth: It can appear as a raised growth or a firm, red nodule on the skin. The affected area might feel elevated or have a thicker texture compared to the surrounding skin.
  • Wart-like Growth: Sometimes, squamous cell carcinoma can resemble a wart in its appearance. It might start small and then grow into a larger, thicker mass.
  • Sores or Ulceration: Open sores or ulcers that persist for weeks, crust over, and then recur or fail to heal completely may be indicative of SCC.
  • Changes in Existing Moles or Lesions: SCC can develop within existing moles or lesions, causing noticeable changes in color, size, shape, or texture. Any alteration in an existing skin growth should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  • Tenderness or Pain: In some cases, squamous cell carcinoma might cause tenderness, pain, or itchiness in the affected area.

What do you need to do if you have some of these symptoms?

If you notice any of these symptoms or experience any changes in your skin that seem unusual, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist or healthcare professional promptly for an evaluation. Early detection and treatment of squamous cell carcinoma can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery.

If you observe symptoms indicative of squamous cell carcinoma, experience any changes in your skin that seem unusual, it’s advisable to seek medical attention promptly for an evaluation.

Squamous cell carcinoma has a higher potential to spread to other areas of the body compared to basal cell carcinoma. Early detection can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery.


Melanoma Cancer early detection Scotland

3 - Melanoma Cancer

Melanoma Cancer:


Melanoma Cancer is less common but more dangerous than other types of skin cancer. It begins in the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) and can rapidly spread to other parts of the body. It often looks like a new mole or a change in an existing mole. Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, and they can develop in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that becomes cancerous.

Early detection of melanoma is crucial in treating skin cancer effectively. It’s essential to regularly inspect your skin for any changes in moles, freckles, or skin discouloration.


How to detected melanoma?


Pay attention to


  • Asymmetry,
  • irregular borders,
  • Variations in colour, and
  • Changes in size or diameter.

If you notice any of these changes or have concerns about a particular spot on your skin, it’s important to consult a dermatologist for a professional evaluation.


Prevention is key in reducing the risk of melanoma cancer. This includes using sunscreen with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and avoiding tanning beds. Additionally, regular skin checks and routine visits to a dermatologist can aid in the early detection and treatment of any potential skin cancer.


Treatment options for skin cancer such as melanoma depend on the type, size, and location of the tumor. They may include surgical removal, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. The prognosis for skin cancer is generally favorable when diagnosed and treated early.


Remember, protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure and being vigilant about changes in your skin are fundamental steps in reducing the risk and impact of skin cancer. Regular self-examinations and professional skin checks are essential for early detection and successful treatment.


However, it’s important to note that melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, even in areas not typically exposed to the sun. It can develop in existing moles or arise as a new lesion.

Melanoma, as a potentially serious form of skin cancer, can manifest in various ways. It’s crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma to facilitate early detection and timely medical intervention.


Symptoms of Melanoma Cancer:


Changes in Moles or Skin Lesions: Keep an eye out for moles or pigmented skin lesions that exhibit changes in size, shape, colour, or texture. An existing mole that undergoes alterations or a new pigmented spot on the skin should be closely monitored.


  • Asymmetrical Moles: If a mole or skin lesion is asymmetrical, meaning one half is unlike the other half in size, shape, or colour, it could be a warning sign.
  • Irregular Borders: Melanomas may have irregular, uneven, or poorly defined borders. Healthy moles typically have a well-defined, smooth border.
  • Colour Changes: Watch for moles or lesions with variations in colour. Melanomas may display a mix of colours, including shades of brown, black, blue, red, or white.
  • Diameter Increase: Any mole or skin lesion that is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (6mm) should be closely observed.
  • Evolving or Changing Moles: Pay attention to moles or lesions that change over time. This could involve changes in size, shape, elevation, itchiness, tenderness, or surface texture.
  • New Growth or Pigmented Area: The appearance of a new pigmented or dark spot on the skin, particularly if it continues to grow, should be assessed by a healthcare professional.
  • Itching or Bleeding: Melanomas might become itchy, tender, or start bleeding without any apparent cause.

What do you need to do if you have some of these symptoms?


Any of these symptoms require immediate attention. The reason is that melanoma has a higher tendency to metastasise or spread to other parts of the body, so, making early detection and have the right treatment it is crucial for better outcomes.

If you notice changes in moles or skin lesions that fit the ABCDE (asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, evolving) warning signs, consult a healthcare professional immediately.


If you’re ready to prioritise your skin’s well-being and take action against skin cancer, Skin Cancer Surgery at Cosmedicare is your ally. Our commitment to personalised care, expertise, and your overall health ensures that you’re in the best hands possible. We are here to help you to have peace of mind.


Please book your FREE consultation today. We are here to help you to have peace of mind.


Meet Mr. Bernard Robertson our clinical lead for skin cancer at Cosmedicare.

Mr. Bernard Robertson Consultant Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon

Mr. Bernard Robertson is a Consultant Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon.

Bernard, or Bernie to friends and patients, features on the GMC specialist register for plastic surgery.

He graduated from Edinburgh University and subsequently went on to train in Plastic Surgery completing his training in the north of England and Scotland.

Having completed the plastic surgery training programme he was appointed as a Consultant Plastic Surgeon in NHS Lanarkshire.

Bernie competitively gained access to and completed a 6 month (BAAPS/BAPRAS) dedicated aesthetic (cosmetic) fellowship where he was mentored and taught by some of the best plastic surgeons in the country. (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons/ British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons).

Within NHS Lanarkshire he is currently clinical lead for the Plastic Surgery department and also clinical lead for skin cancer.

Outside of medicine he enjoys spending time with his wife and young children.

Your peace of mind is our priority.
Check James Davidson and his experience with Cosmedicare,
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