Understanding Types of Skin Cancer

Protecting your skin from the sun should be a daily priority, especially if you’re soaking up the scorching Arizona sun. According to the Arizona Skin Cancer Foundation, because Arizona has a consistently elevated UV index, people living in Arizona are more prone to developing skin cancer. Arizona’s dry heat is no joke, and as summer approaches, sun safety should be at the top of mind. During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, remember that skin cancer can be prevented. Practicing daily sun safety and being mindful of exposure to the blazing sun is pivotal in reducing your skin cancer risk. Understanding the types of skin cancers that affect the body’s largest organ and what you can do to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer are important sun safety steps for a healthy future. 

Types of Skin Cancer

The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Merkel cell skin cancer (carcinoma), lymphoma of the skin, and kaposi sarcoma are less common skin cancers.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an estimated 3.6 million cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year. Basal cells are one of three main types of cells in the skin’s top layer, and when DNA damage from exposure to UV rays occurs, the basal cells can change and result in uncontrolled growth. This can lead to the development of Basal cell carcinoma. 


  • An open sore that doesn’t heal
  • A small shiny bump on the skin
  • A flat, pink/red-colored lesion 
  • A scar-like spot that is flat white, yellow or waxy in color

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma occurs when there is abnormal and accelerated growth of squamous cells. Squamous cell carcinoma is curable when caught early. 


  • ​​A firm pink or red bump
  • A rough lesion that might itch, become crusty, or bleed
  • A raised growth with a depression in the middle that occasionally bleeds and might rapidly increase in size


Melanoma begins in cells known as melanocytes. Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer because it can spread to other organs in your body if not treated at an early stage. 


  • A brown patch or bump
  • A mole that changes in size, color, or that bleeds. These moles vary in color and can be brown, black, tan, pink, red, or purple. 

Merkel Cell Skin Cancer

Merkel cell skin cancer is a rare and aggressive type of skin cancer that can look harmless. 


  • Red or pink spot that can feel painless or grow quickly

Reduce Your Risk

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
  • Always wear sunscreen when you are outside
  • Stay in a shaded area when outside
  • Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs
  • Wear a wide-brim hat
  • Avoid tanning beds


Arizona Skin Cancer Foundation

American Cancer Society: Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Foundation: Skin Cancer 101

CDC: What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer?


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