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Skin Cancer - What it is

Skin cancer begins in the skin’s top or outermost layer – the epidermis. The epidermis is a thin layer that provides a protective cover for the body, keeps skin hydrated, produces new skin cells and contains melanin, which determines skin colour. There are three main types of cells in the epidermis:

  • Squamous cells lie just below the outer surface and function as the skin’s inner lining 
  • Basal cells sit beneath the squamous cells and produce new skin cells 
  • Melanocytes are located in the lower part of the epidermis and produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its normal colour 

Skin cancers are divided into melanoma (MSC) and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). 

Melanoma skin cancer 
Melanoma skin cancer refers to the malignant tumour of the melanocytes which behaves more aggressively than non-melanoma skin cancers. It can develop anywhere on the body, in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that turns cancerous. In Singapore, the incidence of melanoma skin cancer is relatively low with 0.5 cases per 100,000 persons. 

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) 
Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to all the types of skin cancer that are not melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer slowly develops in the upper layers of the skin. The most common types of NMSC are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 

In Singapore, non-melanoma skin cancer is much more common than melanoma skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the 6th most common cancer in males in Singapore and the 7th most common cancer among females in Singapore. Fair-skinned populations are more susceptible to the disease.
The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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