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The Three Main Types of Skin Cancer

Your skin is your largest organ and one of the most likely places for cancer to form. One in five people in the United States will develop a form of skin cancer by age 70. Not all skin cancers are the same, however. The three main types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. 

At the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Dr. Hendi and his team diagnose and treat skin cancer. Once you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, they’ll walk you through all of the available treatment options to help you make the best possible decision. In this blog, Dr. Hendi discusses the three main types of skin cancer as well as their treatments.

Basal cell carcinoma

More people develop basal cell carcinoma than any other form of skin cancer. In fact, they account for 80% of skin cancers. This cancer starts in the lower part of the epidermis, usually on areas of your skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as your face and neck.

It grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Even so, basal cell cancer can invade your bones or other tissues if it isn’t removed or treated. 

Squamous cell carcinoma

The second most common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer begins in the upper part of your epidermis. Like basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer typically forms on sun-exposed skin areas.

Squamous cells can also form in chronic skin sores and scar tissue. In rare cases, they can crop up in the genital region. If squamous cells aren’t removed, they can spread into deeper layers of the skin and other parts of the body over time.


Melanoma is the least common but most serious form of skin cancer. While the exact cause isn’t fully known, exposure to UV radiation, tanning lamps and beds, and sunlight increases your risk of developing this type of cancer.

Melanoma is very treatable early on. And, like all skin cancers, melanoma is more likely to develop if you have fair skin, light eyes, a family history of skin cancer, or a history of sunburns.

Treating skin cancer

Treatment for skin cancer depends on various factors, such as the type of cancer and its severity. One of the best ways to ensure early, successful treatment is through routine dermatological skin checks. In addition, if you notice an unusual mole, one that’s changing size or shape, bleeding, discolored, or large, see Dr. Hendi promptly.

For basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas as well as melanoma, you may benefit from Mohs surgery. This procedure — in which layers of tissue are removed one at a time and examined for signs of skin cancer until none remains — can be especially helpful if you have a high risk of the cancer’s return.

Dr. Hendi has performed more than 15,000 Mohs surgeries, with a very high success rate. Other treatments may include topical medication, cryotherapy, laser surgery, chemical peels, and curettage and desiccation. 

To learn more about skin cancer or to get the care you need, book an appointment online or over the phone with Ali Hendi, MD, today.

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