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Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells that may lead to unusual-looking marks on the body. If left untreated, cancer can spread and may be fatal. Skin cancer usually develops in areas that receive the most sunlight, so growths are often easily visible. Learn what different types of skin cancer look like so you know what to watch for.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

This is the most common type of skin cancer. It looks like a skin-colored, pearl-like bump, or a pink patch of skin. The most likely places for basal cell carcinoma to form include the head, neck, arms, and back of the hands, but it can appear anywhere, including on the chest, abdomen, and legs.

BCC most often develops in fair-skinned people after years of tanning or frequent sun exposure, but it can affect anyone. Early detection and treatment are important to prevent basal cell carcinoma from damaging and disfiguring surrounding tissue, including nerves and bones.

Actinic Keratoses (AK)

AKs first appear as scaly patches or rough spots on the skin. They most often appear in places that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the head, neck, forearms, and hands. These precancerous growths respond well to treatment, so be sure to have scaly patches examined and diagnosed by a dermatologist so you can receive the proper care. If left untreated, Actinic Keratoses can turn into squamous cell carcinoma.

Fair-skinned people have the highest risk. Usually, more than one AK forms at a time, and most people who have many AKs will continue to develop them for life. Each time a new scaly patch forms, treatment is required to prevent it from developing into cancer.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

After BCC, squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It resembles a firm, red bump, scaly patch, or sore that repeatedly heals and re-opens. Common places for SCC include the face, rim of the ear, neck, chest, back, arms, and calves. However, growths can form anywhere on the body, including inside the mouth, on the lips, and in the genital area.

People with light skin are most likely to develop SCC, especially if they use tanning beds. With early diagnosis and treatment, squamous cell carcinoma has an excellent survival rate.


The deadliest and most infamous form of skin cancer, melanoma first appears as a new dark spot on the skin or sudden changes in the appearance of an existing mole or freckle. The ABCDs of melanoma help you know what to look for:

  • Asymmetry, where one half of the mole looks different from the other
  • Jagged, uneven, or poorly defined borders
  • Multiple colors found in a single mole
  • A diameter larger than the size of a pencil eraser

If you suspect you have any type of skin cancer, call Arlington Dermatology in Rolling Meadows, IL at (847) 725-0824 right away. We’ll discuss your treatment options and provide you with the care you need.