Skin Cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), Malignant Melanoma (MM)

What is basal cell carcinoma and what causes it?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a cancer, which usually starts in the skin, where the cells start to over-produce and
form an alteration in skin appearance. They are sometimes called a 'rodent ulcer'. They are the most common types of skin cancer.

There is strong evidence to suggest that ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can do long-term damage to the skin, which may contribute to the development of basal cell carcinoma.

What types of treatment are used?

Fortunately, BCCs are very slow growing forms of skin cancer and usually remain in the outer layer of the skin. This type of cancer does not spread to other parts of the body, i.e. it does not metastasise.

However, if left untreated, they can cause disfigurement. They are usually treated by surgery, radiotherapy or cryotherapy. The diagnosis is confirmed by sending the tumour (cancerous growth) or a small portion of it (biopsy) away to be examined under the microscope. It may take about two weeks for the results of the biopsy to be ready.

If tumours are small, the complete removal of the tissue for diagnosis will also act as a cure.

Occasionally it is necessary to repair the area with a skin graft or other types of plastic surgery.

What is the future?

Following treatment, if all the cancer has been removed, you should view yourself as 'cured'. If you have had one BCC, you are more at risk of developing another.

Therefore, as with your original skin cancer, you need to examine your skin for any abnormal growths once a month to detect early warning signs.

  • Check for any existing or new skin lumps or moles that enlarge, change colour, bleed or itch. Most changes are harmless but they may indicate an early cancer. Please contact your doctor if in doubt !
  • Take care whilst in the sun, by wearing protective clothing and using high factor sunscreens (SPF 15+). Wearing a hat with a large brim is recommended.
  • Avoid strong sunshine during 11am to 3pm if possible. Avoid using sunbeds.
  • Pass on the message to friends and family about protecting themselves and checking alterations in moles and their skin. It is particularly important to protect children from strong sunlight.


What is squamous cell carcinoma and what causes it?


Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a cancer, which usually starts in the skin, where the cells start to over-produce and form an alteration in skin appearance. It is the second most common skin cancer.

There is strong evidence to suggest that ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can do long-term damage to the skin, which may contribute to the development of squamous cell carcinoma.

What types of treatment are used?

Fortunately, SCCs are very slow growing forms of skin cancer and usually remain in the outer layer of the skin. However, if left untreated, they can disfigure the skin and may spread to other organs of the body (metastases). Treatment is usually surgery or radiotherapy, though cryotherapy can be used. The diagnosis is confirmed by sending the tumour (cancerous growth) or a small portion of it (biopsy) away to be examined under the microscope.

If tumours are small, the removal of the tissue for diagnosis will also act as the cure.

Occasionally, it is necessary to repair the area with a skin graft or other types of plastic surgery.

How will I feel after my surgery?

The diagnosis of cancer can produce a wide range of feelings. Most skin cancers are not a serious risk to your health.

What is the future?

Squamous cell carcinoma caught early is curable. However, if you have had one SCC, it is possible that others will develop over the years. For this reason, you need to examine your skin for any abnormality once a month to detect early warning signs.

Here are some tips:

  • Check for any existing or new skin lumps or moles that enlarge, change colour, bleed or itch. Most changes are harmless but they may indicate the start of a skin cancer. See your doctor if in doubt !
  • Take care whilst in the sun, by wearing protective clothing and using high factor sunscreens (SPF 15+).
  • Wearing a hat with a large brim is recommended.
  • Avoid strong sunshine during 11am to 3pm if possible.
  • Avoid using sunbeds.
  • Pass on the message to friends and family about protecting themselves and checking alterations in moles and their skin.
  • It is particularly important to protect children from strong sunlight.
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