What is Skin Cancer?


Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of human cancers. It develops when abnormal skin cells begin to multiply at a rapid rate. 1 in 6 Canadians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. The most common types of skin cancer are:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: a type of cancer that begins in the basal cells. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common skin cancer for Canadians.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: a type of cancer that develops in the outer layer of the skin. This is the reason why it has a “pre-cancer” form as well, call Actinic Keratosis. Squamous Cell Carcinoma accounts for approximately 20% of all diagnoses in Canada.
  • Melanoma Skin Cancer: The most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give color to the skin become cancerous. Melanoma skin cancer has become more common in Canada, ranking as the 8th most common cancer in Canada.

Non-melanoma skin cancer, which includes Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, accounts for 95% of diagnoses in Canada.

Individuals with the following history may be at an increased risk of developing skin cancer:

  • Individuals with fair skin or who tend to burn easily in the sun.
  • Repeated exposure to compounds such as coal tar and arsenic.
  • Repeated medical and industrial x-ray exposure.
  • Scarring from burns.

Taking preventative measures and knowing the warning signs of melanoma can be very helpful. Should you notice a change in the surface of a mole, or if you should experience oozing, bleeding, or the development of a new bump, you should notify your doctor.