What is skin cancer?

Cancer develops when the normal workings of a cell go wrong and the cell becomes abnormal.​

The abnormal cell keeps dividing, making more and more abnormal cells. These eventually form a lump (tumour).

Image Credit: Macmillan Cancer Support

The type of cancer you have depends on where it develops in the body.

Skin cancers develop when cells within the skin become damaged and abnormal.

This is usually due to damage from ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun, or from sunbeds, which deliver very concentrated ultraviolet light. 

We are all exposed to UV light every day and our bodies will usually repair the damage this causes automatically.

If the exposure and damage is intense or prolonged however this makes it more difficult for our bodies to repair and this is when skin cancers may develop

There are many types of skin cancer.

These are usually split into two main categories - melanoma and non-melanoma.

Melanoma (also known as 'malignant melanoma') is less common than non-melanoma cancers, but is the most dangerous.

Non-melanoma skin cancers are mainly comprised of 'Basal Cell Carcinoma' (BCC) and 'Squamous Cell Carcinoma' (SCC). BCC is the most common and the least dangerous.

Rarer types of skin cancer are Atypical Fibroxanthoma and Merkel cell

See Types of skin cancer for more detailed information on each type