Where is skin cancer found?

The short answer is that skin cancer can be found anywhere; however, certain skin cancers are more likely to occur in certain places. Below we go over where skin cancer is typically found in the most common forms of skin cancer. 

The short answer is that skin cancer can be found anywhere; however, certain skin cancers are more likely to occur in certain places. Below we go over where skin cancer is typically found in the most common forms of skin cancer.

Where Basal Cell Carcinoma is found

Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common forms of skin cancer worldwide. Basal cell carcinoma forms in the outer layer of the skin called the epidermis. It typically presents itself as a waxy or pearly white bump or nodule on the face, ears or neck. These bumps may bleed or develop a crust. It can also appear as brown, blue or black lesions, pigmented areas with slightly raised, translucent borders, as a slowly growing flat, brown or red patch or as a pink growth with an indented center. Open sores that won’t heal and may bleed, ooze and crust and waxy looking scars are other symptoms of basal cell carcinoma. In general, basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer and it is rare for it to metastasize to other areas of the body.

Most common sites: Most basal cell carcinomas are a result of long-time, repeated sun-exposure or occasional intense sun-exposure. That’s why the cancer is most common in areas of the skin regularly exposed to the sun, including the face, neck, scalp, shoulders, back, and ears.

Where Squamous Cell Carcinoma is found

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It forms when squamous cells begin to grow uncontrollably in the top layers of the skin, called the epidermis. In most cases, it is caused by repeated exposure to UV rays over time. Squamous cell carcinoma usually first appears as a red, scaly, sometimes crusty plaque of skin that may get bigger and develop a sore, as a red, hard domed bump that won’t go away or as a wart-like growth that may bleed or crust. The growths may also be pink and dry and may itch or burn.

Most common sites: Squamous cell carcinoma typically shows up on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, lips, arms, legs, and tops of hands, but it can also more rarely appear on areas not exposed to the sun including the lower lip, genitals, in the lining of organs and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

Where Melanoma is found

Melanoma is the least common but deadliest type of skin cancer. Melanoma begins in melanocyte cells found in the innermost layer of the epidermis. It occurs when those cells behave abnormally, growing excessively and taking over surrounding tissues. Melanomas can develop from existing moles or skin growths, but, more commonly, they will start as a new growth.

Most common sites: Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, including areas not exposed to the sun, like inside the mouth or the palms of the hands. Men are more likely to get melanomas on their back and trunk or on their heads and neck while women are more likely to get them on their arms and legs.

A study in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that melanomas in blacks, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions. > Learn more about these rarer symptoms of melanoma.

Learn about the different types and symptoms of melanoma

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