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Skin Cancer, Non-Melanoma


Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the skin.

The two main types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell skin cancer. Most non-melanoma cancers are this type. Basal cell skin cancer can damage the skin and deeper tissues where the cancer started growing. It almost never spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Squamous cell skin cancer. This type is less common. Sometimes it develops from a small rough spot that grows in sun-damaged skin. It can also appear on skin not exposed to the sun. Or it can appear in a scar or on skin with ongoing problems. It sometimes spreads to other parts of the body.

When found and treated early, most of these skin cancers can be cured.

Other types of non-melanoma skin cancers are much less common. These include Merkel cell carcinoma and some sarcomas.


Your doctor will want to remove all of the cancer. The most common way is surgery to cut out the abnormal growth. Radiation may be done if surgery isn't an option. Other treatments include medicines that are put on the skin (topical therapy), chemotherapy, and photodynamic therapy. You will need regular checkups.

How to lower your risk

You can help lower your risk for all types of skin cancer by being careful in the sun. For example, stay out of the sun during midday hours or seek shade. Wear sun-protective clothes when you're outdoors. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on exposed skin. Avoid sunbathing and tanning salons.


Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine