What is skin cancer?

There are two main types of skin cancers:

Non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of skin cancers that affect the upper layers of skin. The term ‘non-melanoma’ distinguishes these generally more common types of skin cancer from the less common, but more aggressive, skin cancer known as melanoma. Types of NMSC include Actinic Keratoses, Basal Cell Carcinoma (“BCC”) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (“SCC”). Exposure to UV-light from natural or artificial sources is the main cause of NMSC.


Melanoma is a less common but dangerous type of cancer that begins in the skin and can spread to other organs in the body. It is the 19th most common cancer worldwide and is estimated to be responsible for almost 200,000 new cases of cancer each year. The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. Melanoma occurs when pigment cells in the skin begin to develop abnormally. It is not known exactly why this happens but it is thought that exposure to UV light from natural or artificial sources may be partly responsible.


  • Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. There are several types of skin cancer and most can either be prevented or detected at an early stage and treated.
  • The first signs of early skin cancer are usually a number of abnormal but relatively harmless skin growths. You can see what these early changes to the surface and colour of the skin can look like on the following page. It is important to spot these early changes as soon as possible as they represent warning signs of potential skin cancer.


Please seek the advice of a healthcare professional if you have concerns about skin cancer.