Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. There are over 100,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year. It’s more common in men and older people.
Non-melanoma cancer is when cells in the top layer of skin (epidermis) start to grow abnormally and in an uncontrolled way. It’s the most common type of skin cancer, whereas melanoma is less common but can be more serious.
There are different types of non-melanoma skin cancer, depending on which cells they start in:
Most non-melanoma cancer can be treated effectively.
Non-melanoma skin cancers tend to develop on skin that’s exposed to the sun.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
A BCC is usually:
It can slowly get bigger, become crusty, bleed or develop into an ulcer.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
An SCC typically:
In people with dark or black skin, they’re more likely to develop in areas not usually exposed to the sun – such as the torso or genitals.
If you notice anything unusual about your skin that doesn’t go away after four weeks, you should see your GP. If your GP suspects a BCC or SCC after examining your skin, they’ll usually refer you to a dermatologist (a skin specialist) who’ll conduct a biopsy – a small tissue sample from the lump is taken for analysis under a microscope.
BCCs usually develop due to UV light exposure which damages the DNA in your skin cells. This means you’re more at risk if you:
SCCs can also be caused by too much UV light exposure, but other causes include:
Depending on the size, location and depth of the tumour, treatments include:
Protecting yourself from the sun can help prevent skin cancer from developing or returning, and leading a healthy lifestyle can help protect against SCC – eg stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol.