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Nonmelanoma skin cancer

Skin cancer is divided into:

  • Malignant melanoma - originating from melanocytes in the epidermis
  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer:
    • Basal cell carcinomas – originating from the basal cell layer in the epidermis
    • Squamous cell carcinoma – originating from the basal cell layer in the epidermis
    • Kaposi sarcoma – originates from connective tissue in the dermis
    • Merkel cell carcinoma – originates from neuroendocrine cells in the dermis
    • Skin adnex tumors – originates from hair follicle cells, sweat glands, or sebum cells in the dermis
    • Intraepithelial tumors – Bowen's disease which originates from glandular cells in the skin
    • Keratocanthomas – originate in the epidermis

The skin is the body's largest organ and weighs about 2 kg in a 70 kg person. For an adult, the surface is between 1.5 and 2.2 m2. The skin consists of three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layer, all of which can develop cancer. The histological subtype depends on which of the different cell layers are malignant.

Skin types

The separation of skin types is based on sensitivity to sun rays, especially UV rays. In Norway, the most common skin types are 1–4.

  • Skin type 1 – Burns easily and rarely becomes tanned. Fair hair, sensitive skin, and freckles. Often light blond or red hair.
  • Skin type  2 – Almost always burns and sometimes becomes tanned. Fair hair which is often blond, but also dark blond and black hair.
  • Skin type  3 – Sometimes red but always tans after a while.
  • Skin type  4 – Never burns. This skin type is common in Mediterranean countries.
  • Skin type 5 and 6 – Naturally black/brown skin and often dark brown eyes and black/brown hair.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer - Essential facts


Of nonmelanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) has not been reported to the Cancer Registry of Norway since it does not spread like other cancers. It is estimated that there are about 12,000 new lesions each year. Of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), there were 1884 cases registered in 2015 in Norway, 1044 men and 840 women. All of the other subgroups are considerably more rare. Between 5 to 20 cases occur annually.


Age-specific incidence of nonmelonoma skin cancer, 2009–2013.

Source: Cancer Registry of Norway



Incidence of nonmelonoma skin cancer, 1954–2013.

Source: Cancer Registry of Norway

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