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Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, affecting over a million people per year in the United States. The three most common types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Depending on the progression of the particular type of cancer, Mohs surgery can be effective to remove all three. The cause most associated with skin cancer is an excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Once diagnosed, it is critical to be proactive in limiting your exposure to direct sunlight with clothing (including headwear), sunscreen and staying in the shade as much as possible. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Depending on the progression of the particular type of cancer, Mohs surgery can be effective to remove all three.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Over 75% of skin cancer cases are basal cell carcinoma. One of the most highly treatable types of skin cancer, it commonly shows up around the face, hands and neck. Rarely metastasizing (spreading to other parts of the body), its symptoms include a reddish, irritated area that sometimes involves a sore that bleeds or oozes. Other symptoms include a whitish or yellowish area that can look like a scar or a pinkish, pearly bump on the skin. Patients with skin cancer often tell their doctor that the area “never heals” or seems to “come and go” in the same spot. With basal cell carcinoma’s tendency not to spread to other parts of the body, Mohs surgery is an effective, successful option that has a faster recovery time than other skin cancer removal procedures.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The next most common skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, commonly appears on the parts of the body that get the most exposure to the sun; the ears, face and mouth. Symptoms include a red scaly area or bump that turns into an open sore that gets larger and won’t heal. Early squamous cell carcinomas can be reddish in color and at times, appear flaky or crusty like a patch of dry skin that never gets better. Once identified, early treatment is critical as this type of skin cancer can quickly spread to other parts of the body. When it is detected early, Mohs surgery is a viable option to remove the cancerous cells. During the earlier phases of growth, the squamous cell carcinomas are generally contained, and this is when Mohs surgery is most effective. However, once squamous cell carcinoma has spread to other systems, more aggressive treatments than Mohs surgery will be used to treat the cancer.


Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can show up on any part of the body. While it is most often found on the torso, legs and arms, it is not limited to those areas. Melanoma can be deadly, but if detected early and treated, it is highly curable. Melanoma is different than the other types of skin cancers because it generally does not appear as a sore. Melanoma can look like a mole or a freckle that changes in size, shape and color. If the mole has an uneven or irregular shape or is multi-colored, or if you have a new mole, it is important to get it looked at. A mole that itches and/or bleeds should also be examined by a physician as well. Like squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma can be treated with Mohs surgery upon immediate diagnosis. However, because melanoma does not always appear as a sore, early detection does not always happen. If it is detected later, Mohs surgery may not be the most appropriate treatment.

This is general information. Your doctor will provide you with specific information regarding your particular condition and give you appropriate treatment options.

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