Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., making up more than half the total cancers diagnosed each year.

Skin cancer includes melanoma, basal and squamous cell carcinoma, and merkel cell carcinoma. It typically occurs when skin cells turn cancerous from exposure to the sun, and other factors may be involved. We treat all types of skin cancer and can help you heal—and enjoy life after cancer.


Most skin cancers are caused by unprotected exposure to the UV rays of the sun, as well as artificial sources like tanning beds. The UV rays damage the DNA in cells, causing them to mutate and become cancerous. Skin cancer typically occurs in any sun-exposed areas like the head, neck and arms, but can occur in other parts of the body too.

The extensive experience and caring expertise you’ll find at UCHealth in treating skin cancer makes a significant difference in your positive outcome. Whether you’re here by referral or you have concerns, please make an appointment today with one of our skin cancer specialists so we can help you heal and get you on the road to life after cancer.

Makeup of the skin

The two main layers of skin are the upper or outer layer, called the epidermis, and the lower or inner layer, called the dermis. The epidermis consists of three kinds of cells:

Squamous cells. Flat cells that make up most of the epidermis.

Basal cells. Round cells under the squamous cells.

Melanocytes. Cells in the lower part of the epidermis that make melanin, the pigment that normally makes skin flesh colored but cause the skin to darken when exposed to the sun.

Main types of skin cancer

The main types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma. Melanoma is less common than the others but is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Skin cancer occurs in these three types of cells, which determines the type of cancer:

Squamous cell cancers tend to occur on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, ear, neck, lip, and back of the hands. They can also form in genital skin, and scars or skin sores.

Basal cell cancers typically occur on sun-exposed areas like the face, head, and neck.

Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body.

Customized treatment plans and your medical team

Whether you’ve already been diagnosed with skin cancer or you have concerns, we will treat you with a customized plan that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person.

Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Dermatologists
  • Dermapathologists
  • Dermatologic surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Oncology nurses

  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Social workers
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Your team could also include complementary and integrative medicine specialists who incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and nutrition and exercise consultation into your plan.

Our high-risk skin cancer program

If you are at high risk for developing skin cancer, UCHealth offers many specialized services for prevention, care and treatment.

Our multidisciplinary team provides exceptional care for organ transplant recipients and people with hereditary skin diseases that increase their risk for skin cancer. In addition, you may become one of the many people from around the world who choose UCHealth for our expertise in treating skin-based cutaneous lymphomas.

Father and son playing football

American Academy of Dermatology Association. TYPES OF SKIN CANCER (

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Basic Information About Skin Cancer (

National Cancer Institute (NCI). Skin Cancer (Including Melanoma) (