What You Should Know About Skin Cancer

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Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with about 9,500 people being diagnosed daily. There are a few different types of skin cancer and depending on which form of skin cancer you have will determine the treatment used and the severity.

At Tamjidi Skin Institute in Chevy Chase and Vienna, we offer skin cancer screening services to help identify any sign of skin cancer as early as possible. We wanted to give you more information about skin cancer and things you should know. Read on to learn more and be sure to schedule a skin cancer screening today!

Types of Skin Cancer

There are four main types of skin cancer that are common. While there are other rare skin cancers, we are going to focus on these four.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It makes up about 80 percent of the 3 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year. This type of skin cancer develops in the basal cell layer of skin, which is the lowest part of the epidermis.

This type of skin cancer often develops in people who have fair skin, but everyone can get this type of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is generally developed after years of spending time in the sun or indoor tanning.

Basal cell carcinoma shows up in flesh-colored round growths, pearl-like bumps, or a pinkish patch of skin. It commonly occurs on the head, neck, and arms, but basal cell carcinoma can occur anywhere on the body.

While this type of skin cancer usually grows slowly, it is important to get it treated as early as possible. It does not commonly spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body, but it could occur if it is left untreated for too long.

Basal cell carcinoma can recur in the same location that the cancer originally formed. In fact, those who have had basal cell carcinoma are at more of a risk of developing it again somewhere else on the body. About half of the patients who have already developed basal cell carcinoma will develop it again within five years of that first diagnosis.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. Like basal cell carcinoma, this skin cancer can develop in those with light or dark skin, but is more common in light skin. This type of skin cancer may appear in a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and reopens.

This type of skin cancer develops in the squamous cells, which make up a lot of the epidermis. Squamous cell carcinoma often develops on the neck, ears, face, and the back of the hands. It can also develop in other areas, such as in scars, skin ulcers, and the genital region.

Squamous cell carcinoma grows slowly but it is uncommon for it to spread. However, this type of skin cancer is more likely to spread or invade tissue beneath the skin. When this skin cancer grows deep into the skin, it can cause damage and disfigurement.

Like basal cell carcinoma, early diagnosis is important. The main differences between basal and squamous cell carcinoma are the cells that are affected and the likelihood of spreading.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare but aggressive type of skin cancer. It develops in Merkel cells, these are the cells that allow the skin to sense touch, along with nerve endings. This type of skin cancer is generally developed in areas that are exposed to the sun, including the face and scalp.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, the number of Merkel cell carcinoma diagnosis increased by 95 percent between 2000 and 2013. The number of cases is expected to continue to increase.

People over the age of 50 with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing this type of cancer. Many people over the age of 65 don’t protect their skin from the sun, which can lead to a higher risk of Merkel cell carcinoma.

Merkel cell carcinoma can metastasize to the brain, bones, liver, or lungs.


Melanoma is one of the least common types of skin cancer, but it is the deadliest. This type of cancer forms in melanocytes, which are the skin cells that produce the brown pigment, known as melanin. These cells darken when they are exposed to the sun, which is your skin’s natural response to try and protect the deeper layers of skin from the harmful UV rays.

This type of skin cancer is considered the most dangerous because it spreads. Melanoma can develop in an existing mole on your skin or appear suddenly as a dark spot on the skin. Like other types of skin cancer, it is important to get melanoma diagnosed early.

There are some signs to look out for when it comes to melanoma — The ABCDEs of melanoma.

These include:

  • Asymmetrical spots
  • Border around the spot is poorly defined or irregular
  • Color of the spot varies from one area to the other
  • Diameter is typically about 6mm
  • Evolving color, size, and shape of spots

Now that you know more about the different types of cancer, you can be more aware and, hopefully, protect yourself from the sun more often. In our next blog, we will talk about the treatment options for the different types of skin cancer and give you more information about them. For now, if you think you may have skin cancer, it is best to schedule a skin cancer screening at Tamjidi Skin Institute in Chevy Chase or Vienna so that you can be diagnosed early.