Singapore Dermatologist Explains Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer


Most skin cancers are easily treatable if identified early. Personally, I always check for any new strange mole or patch on my body and regularly consult with a qualified dermatologist in Singapore.

There are different types of skin cancers. Basal and Squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancer, often related to sun exposure. They start in the Basal and Squamous cells respectively, which are located in the top-most layer of the skin, Epidermis. Here is the brief review of both of them:

Basal Cell Skin Cancer

Basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for about 80% of total skin cancer cases. These cancers mostly develop on the sun-exposed areas (face, head or neck). Usually, they do not spread to other areas. But sometimes, if left untreated, do affect surrounding areas like bone or tissues beneath the skin.

Proper removal of it is necessary as it can recur in the same place otherwise. People affected by it are more likely to be affected by it again in other areas.

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Squamous cell skin cancer claims about 20% of skin cancer cases. These cancers also start mainly on sun-exposed areas (face, ears, neck, lips or back of hands). They can also develop in scars, Actinic keratoses, chronic skin sores or very rarely, in the genital area.

They are more likely to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread to other parts than Basal skin cancers. But fortunately, they can be removed completely through surgery.

There are also pre-cancerous and other conditions related to Squamous Cell Cancers. These are:

Acitinic Kerasotis

Actinic Kerasotis (AK) is caused by too much exposure to the sun. They can be identified as rough or scaly spots which are mostly colored as pinkish-red. They are usually small(1/4 inch).

A small percentage of AK’s can turn into Squamous Cell Cancer. It is difficult to differentiate between a case of AK and a case of squamous cell cancer. So doctors recommend to remove it surgically or if not get your doctor check them regularly for any signs of change.

Bowen Disease

Bowen Disease is the earliest form of Squamous Cell Skin Cancer. In this disease, cancer cells are only present in the upper layer of epidermis.

This disease starts in sun-exposed areas mostly. When affected by it, reddish patches appear on the body. These patches are larger, redder and scalier in comparison to AK. Sometimes, they are even crusted. They don’t have any other symptom except occasional itch or sore.

It can also start in the skin of genital or anal area. In this area, it is mostly related to HPVs (Human Papillomaviruses), a sexually transmitted virus.

Bowen disease can sometimes progress to become an invasive squamous cell skin cancer. So doctors recommend to treat it promptly. People affected by it are also at higher risk for other skin cancers.


These are dome-shaped tumors found on sun-exposed areas. They grow quickly, but after sometime slow down. Most of the time, they shrink or even go away without any treatment. Sometimes, they continue to grow. It is hard to separate them from squamous cell skin cancer and their growth is difficult to predict. So doctors recommend to remove them.

Other types of skin cancers:

  1. Melanoma
  2. Merkel cell carcinoma
  3. Kaposi sarcoma
  4. Cutaneous (skin) lymphoma
  5. Skin adnexal tumors
  6. Various types of sacromas

These cancers are very rare and together account for less than even 1% of the total cases of skin cancer.

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