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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Skin cancer types

The skin is made of a variety of cells, many of which are in constant motion. Round basal cells below the surface flatten as they rise to replace dead, flaking squamous cells on the surface. Melanocytes tan the skin in the sunlight, and Merkel cells give skin its ability to sense touch. When these cells become damaged, they may develop into skin cancer.

cancer types

Types of skin cancer

All skin cancers are serious and should be treated promptly. But skin cancer types, treatment options and prognoses vary widely depending on the types of cells affected. Types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Other skin cancer types are very rare, including these:

Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is caused by human herpesvirus 8, also known as Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus. This cancer usually appears as lesions or tumors on the skin. Tumors may also form in the mouth, lungs or digestive tract. Most U.S. cases of KS involve patients infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But KS may occur in other patients whose immune system is severely compromised.

Actinic keratosis is a pre-cancerous growth that may develop into squamous cell carcinomas if left untreated. These growths may be found in clusters on skin damaged by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Lymphoma of the skin, or cutaneous lymphoma, is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Most cases of lymphoma form in the lymph nodes, which are small glands scattered throughout the body that produce disease-fighting T-cells and B-cells, also known as lymphocytes. But lymphomas may also develop in other lymphoid tissue, including the spleen, bone marrow and skin. This rare cancer may appear as a rash or bumps on the skin.

Keratoacanthoma are typically benign (non-cancerous) tumors that grow slowly and often go away on their own. Keratoacanthoma tumors that do continue to grow are often treated like a form of squamous cell carcinoma.


Last Revised: 07/14/2017

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Skin cancer infographic

skin cancer infographic

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Early diagnosis and intervention may improve the chances of overcoming the disease. Learn more about skin cancer types and treatment options.