Types of skin cancer

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Types of skin cancer

What is a carcinoma?

A carcinoma is a synonym for “malignant cancer cells”, “malignant tumor” or cancer.

Depending on the type of these cells, it is called basal cell (basal origin or layer of skin where hair grows) or squamous (epithelial origin or external layer of skin).

There are several types of skin cancer depending on the cells that are affected. They can be divided into two types, such as “non-melanomas” and “melanomas”, or three, if we consider the location where they appear. In this case, we will subdivide the group of non melanomas into two.

In short, those that have special relevance are basal carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma:

Features of non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer is made up of mostly carcinomas. Within which we find two types, depending on the depth of the skin where it appears:

  • Basal or basal cell carcinoma: Basal or basal cell carcinoma,as its name suggests, occurs in the cells of the skin area, where the hair is born, they are round cells. The basement membrane is a layer that has the function of supporting and is part of the epithelial tissues. This type of cancer is the most common, since it represents 80% of all skin cancers.

It develops in deep layers of the skin, has a slow evolution and does not spread (spread, metastasize) easily. It usually appears in angular areas of the eye or lip of the mouth.

This low mortality rate, despite having easier access to the bloodstream and the lymphatic system (responsible among other things for transporting substances and the immunity of our body), is due to its slow evolution that makes it more difficult to spread to the whole organism, being able to create a metastasis only in 5% of the cases.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma, as its name suggests, occurs in the epidermis, the most external and superficial part of the skin and mucosa,which are flattened cells.

This type of cancer represents only 20% of all skin cancers, is commoner in immunosuppressed persons,has a slow evolution and spreads more easily through the lymph nodes. Areas such as lips and ears are only affected in a maximum of 10% of cases. There is a skin disorder called actinic keratosis, which sometimes ends up leading to squamous cell carcinoma.

Both types of cancer do not have a high death rate. So we can conclude that nonmelanoma skin cancer, if detected and treated in time, has a good prognosis.

This low mortality rate is not due to the fact that it is located in external and superficial areas of the skin, since this type of cancer is capable of spreading to deeper tissues and can reach the bloodstream and lymph nodes, but, thanks to its slow evolution makes it more difficult for it to spread throughout the body, being able to create a metastasis in only 5% of cases.

Features of melanoma skin cancer

Melanoma is a (mostly) malignant and highly pigmented tumor.

As its name indicates, it usually appears in the area of the skin where melanin resides (skin, mucosa, eyes, nervous system, etc.). It manifests itself in the deepest layers of the skin.

Melanin is a substance that gives our skin coloration by pigmenting it, and therefore it is also responsible for the dark coloration of the tumor that forms on it.

There are four types of melanomas according to their manifestation and physical characteristics: superficial malignant melanoma, lentiginous malignant melanoma, acral lentiginous melanoma and nodular melanoma.

Melanoma frequency

Unlike non-melanoma cancers, melanoma has a much lower incidence, which is usually 1 or 2% of all skin cancers. The problem is that it has a much higher death rate, being responsible for three-quarters of deaths from skin cancer.

This is because it is easier for the bloodstream and lymphatic system to spread (which is responsible, among other things, for transporting substances and the immunity of our body), making it easier for it to spread throughout the organism, quickly creating a metastasis.

Other types of skin cancer

There are two types of non-melanoma skin cancers,which are much less common and appear less frequently, they are sarcomas and lymphomas.

  • Sarcomas: Sarcomas, affect connective tissue in the dermis of the skin. There are several types, such as angiosarcomas, dermatofibrosarcomas or Kaposi’s sarcoma.The latter,usually affects older people, grows very slowly and appears a bluish-brown spot on the lower extremities.

In immunosuppressed people, it grows and spreads much faster, affecting other vital organs.

  • Lymphomas: Lymphomas are a type of cancer arising from lymphocytes (components of the immune system) which we usually find on the skin. In this case they are not performing their functions as they should, that is, protecting us, but have been transformed into malignant.
    If it has originated in the skin, it is called primary cutaneous lymphoma, otherwise, it usually occurs in the lymphatic system.


There are two types of tumors, skin disorders, which are not cancerous, but which may end up being so over time, especially if they are not monitored or treated properly. They are benign tumors and precancerous lesions:

  • Benign tumors: , as their name indicates, are benign tumor lumps, therefore, since they are not malignant, they are not cancerous. Examples of benign lumps or lumps can be, some moles, warts, some spots,etc.
  • Precancerous lesions:as their name indicates, they are benign skin wounds or alterations (for the moment). Since they are not malignant, they are not considered cancer.

However, they are skin affections that are usually the main precursors or previous phase of developing non-melanoma skin cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma. The most commonly known are the so-called actinic keratoses, they usually have a reddish color and appear on the scalp of men with baldness.

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Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

1 July, 2020

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