Cancer can develop in the cells of the skin. Skin cancers are named after the type of cell they start from.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two most common types of skin cancer. They are sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancer.

The third most common type of skin cancer is melanoma, which begins in the melanocytes.

There are other rare skin cancers, such as those that arise from the sweat glands.

Other spots that aren’t skin cancer can also appear. They are warning signs that your skin has received too much sun and you may be more prone to melanoma or other skin cancers.

Solar Keratoses

Commonly known as sunspots, Solar Keratoses usually occur in people aged over 40. They appear the head, neck, arms and legs.

Usually flattish, scaly patches. May be pale or red, and may sting if scratched. Some may develop into squamous cell cancers.

An information sheet is available HERE.

Dysplastic naevi

Most commonly recognised as moles. Have an irregular shape and an uneven colour. People with many dysplastic naevi are more likely to develop melanoma.

An information sheet is available HERE.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Accounts for 70-85% of all skin cancers. Most common in people over 40 years of age but can develop in younger people.

Usually develop on the head, neck and upper body. Some appear on the arms and legs. Small, round or flattened in shape; red, pale or pearly in colour. Slow growing.

Doesn’t usually spread to other parts of the body. If left untreated may grow deeper into the skin and damage nearby tissue. This may make treatment more difficult and increase the chance of the skin cancer coming back.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Accounts for 15-20% of all skin cancers. Most common in people aged over 50.

Usually appears on the head, neck, hands and forearms. Less often, it can develop on the upper body or the legs.

Thickened red, scaly spots, which later may bleed easily or be tender to touch. They can look like a sore that hasn’t healed.

Grows quickly over several months. Can spread to other parts of the body.


Makes up 5% of all cancer cases. Most serious but can be treated successfully when diagnosed early.

New spot, or an existing freckle or mole may change in size, shape or colour. Irregular edge or surface, blotchy with brown, black, blue, red, white or light grey colour. May itch, bleed or become larger or irregular in shape. Normally noticed over weeks or months rather than days.