A 3 Minute Guide To Skin Cancers

July 29, 2019


What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer develops within the cells in the skin. There are 3 main types of skin cancers. However there are many other types derived from various parts of the skin. The 3 main types are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma (Non-melanoma skin cancer)
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (Non-melanoma skin cancer)
  • Malignant melanoma

What Are The Risk Factors In Developing Skin Cancer?

  • Fair skin which burns easily
  • History of multiple sunburns
  • Excessive UV light exposure
  • Multiple moles or unusual looking moles
  • Family history or personal history of skin cancers
  • Weakened immune system

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are by far the commonest skin cancers. They usually appear on sun-exposed skin, e.g. head and neck, scalp, limbs.

BCCs usually present as a dome shaped lesion with an ulcer on the surface, also known as nodular BCC/rodent-ulcer. However, BCCs can present very subtly as a scar-like lesion known as infiltrative BCC, or a scaly lesion known as superficial BCC. SCCs present as non-healing ulcerated scaly lesions.

A skin biopsy may be recommended to determine the nature of skin growths as these non-melanoma skin cancers may not be easily detected in early stages. Fortunately, these cancers are usually not metastatic and therefore do not commonly spread to other part of the body/organs. SCC may however spread to lymph nodes and may be fatal if left untreated for many years.

Your dermatologist will recommend treatment depending on the size, site involved, the extent of the tumour and your fitness for treatment. Ideally, they should be surgically removed.

basal cell carcinoma
squamous cell carcinoma



Melanomas are cancers developed from the pigment cells in your skin called melanocytes. It is a serious form of skin cancer. Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, commonly in exposed skin surfaces, but can also appear in covered areas.

Melanomas are not as common as basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, although they can be far more serious. Melanoma can almost always be cured in its early stages. If left alone or ignored, melanoma is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body, where it can be very hard to treat.

Not all moles will evolve into cancer (melanoma), but any change to your moles require immediate attention by an experienced dermatologist.



How Do I Check My Skin?

  • Seek help from a dermatologist early if you or your family members detect:
    • new lesions that do not heal spontaneously
    • lesions that cause discomfort or tenderness
    • lesions that bleed
    • lesions that continue to grow in size
  • Self-examination and examination of your skin with help from a close family member would be advisable if you have multiple moles or risk factors for skin cancers.
  • Our clinic provides mole mapping services if you are at risks of developing skin cancers. Annual skin checks by a qualified dermatologist are recommended for Caucasians with fair skin.
  • Suspicious features of a mole that need to be observed for are:
    • A: Asymmetry
    • B: Borders (irregular, blurred)
    • C: Colour (varying colours)
    • D: Diameter (more than 6mm)
    • E: Evolution (changing over time)

ABCDE of moles

How Do I Protect Myself From UV Rays?

  • The catch phrase is Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap!:
    • Slip on a shirt.
    • Slop on sunscreen. Advisable to use sunscreens with at least SPF 50 and protection against UVA and repeat application 4 hourly.
    • Slap on a hat.
    • Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and skin around them.
  • In tropical weather, avoidance of direct sun during mid-day between 10am – 4pm is advisable.

SOG - HM Liew Skin & Laser Clinic

Gleneagles Medical Centre
6 Napier Road, #06-01
Singapore 258499

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