Which Type Of Skin Cancer Is The Most Dangerous? How It Develops, And How To Lower Your Risk

Date May 22, 2018

What are the types of skin cancer, and which one is the most dangerous?

Skin cancers are classified according to the type of cells they affect. Three main types are the following:

  • squamous cell carcinoma;
  • basal cell carcinoma;
  • melanoma.

READ ALSO: 7 Skin Cancer Symptoms People Should Pay Attention To

Squamous cell carcinoma develops in squamous cells, the cells that make up the outermost and middle layers of the skin. This type of cancer normally develops on the areas of skin that get more sun, including head, neck, hands, arms, and upper back. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most widespread type of skin cancer, and it’s also the least likely to spread.

Basal cell carcinoma starts to grow in basal cells, the cells that lie beneath squamous ones. Basal cells make new squamous cells when old ones die off. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) commonly develops on the head and neck, less often on other areas open to the sun. Like squamous cell carcinoma, BCC can be spotted early and treated only with surgery.

Melanoma starts in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment melanin - the one that gives the skin its color. Melanoma usually starts on areas of the skin that get more sun, but it may develop anywhere on the skin, such as between the toes. Melanoma accounts for just 1% of all skin cancers, but it's the deadliest one, and it’s more likely to grow beyond the skin.

READ ALSO: 11 Tips To Help You Spot An Abnormal Mole Which Could Be Cancerous

How melanoma spreads

Melanoma usually starts as a mole. Unlike non-cancerous moles, melanomas typically have uneven edges and several different shades or colors. They also tend to grow in size.

If melanoma hasn’t grown beyond the skin, the cancerous mole and a little bit of surrounding skin can be simply cut out, and no other treatment will be needed.

But if melanoma isn’t caught in time, it can grow deeper into the skin and reach lymphatic and blood vessels. When melanoma cells enter the lymphatic or circulatory system, they can spread to distant organs (such as the lungs, liver, or brain), settle there, and form tumors.

Ways to minimize the risk of skin cancer

There is no surefire way to prevent any type of cancer. But there are ways to decrease your risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

To protect yourself, do this:

  • apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and higher; apply it on all open areas of your skin, including your face;
  • try to stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun is the most active;
  • refrain from using tanning beds;
  • inspect your skin for any unusual changes every month, and report any suspicious moles or lesions to your doctor.

Source:, Mayo Clinic (1), Mayo Clinic (2), Mayo Clinic (3), Mayo Clinic (4)

READ ALSO: Melanoma: Statistics, Risk Factors, And How To Spot It

This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.