8 Most Common Places to Get Skin Cancer

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on July 12, 2021
  • man checking face in mirror
    Know Where to Check for Skin Cancer
    Exposure to ultraviolet light—sunlight and tanning beds—is the main risk factor for skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the most common types and are related to UV exposure adding up over the years. Melanoma—the deadliest form—is more strongly related to intense exposure and sunburn. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, not just the sunburned area. Always check your whole body for changes in your skin, especially moles, but here are the most common skin cancer sites.
  • middle-age-couple-walking
    1. Face
    It shouldn’t be a surprise that your face is the most common place for skin cancer to develop. Your face is exposed to sunlight almost every day of your life. And the most prominent part of your face—your nose—is the most common area of your face to see skin cancer. The good news is that these cancers tend to be basal cell and squamous cell cancers, are typically identified early, and are usually easy to treat.
  • Man With Towel
    2. Scalp
    Most skin cancers on the scalp occur in balding men. But even if you have a full head of hair, your scalp is still vulnerable. Both melanoma and nonmelanoma types of skin cancer are common on the scalp. So ask your barber or hair stylist to keep an eye out for any spots on your scalp and consider wearing hats and using hair products with SPF.
  • Mans ear
    3. Ears
    A recent study found that the ear is the third most common place to find basal cell skin cancer. Men’s ears are particularly at risk, probably due to shorter haircuts. To protect your ears, don’t skip them when you apply daily sunscreen, and wear hats with at least a three-inch brim. Baseball caps and brimless hats will leave them exposed.
  • Sunburned surfer
    4. Neck
    The neck is a common area to find melanoma in men. But while one-third of melanomas occur on the head or neck, nonmelanoma skin cancers are far more common in these areas. Because your neck is exposed nearly every day, be sure to smooth your daily facial sunscreen down to cover your neck as well.
  • Woman using hand lotion
    5. Hands
    Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer to develop on the hands. Recognizing squamous cell skin cancers on the hand can be a challenge. These cancers can look like small firm nodules, scaling or crusty skin, or small cuts or ulcers. So don’t ignore a cut that doesn’t seem to heal or a dry patch that just won’t go away. Be safe and have it checked.
  • Man in the bathroom
    6. Chest and Back
    In men, the trunk is the most common area for melanomas to occur. And while it’s relatively easy to check your own chest for skin cancer, it can be difficult to monitor your back. Enlist the help of another person or use a mirror in a well-lit room. Look for new spots or changing spots that are becoming larger, darker, or uneven in any way.
  • womans-legs
    7. Legs
    In women, the legs—particularly the lower legs—are the most common area for melanoma to occur. If you check regularly and find melanoma in the early stages, it’s highly treatable. So be sure to look at the backs of your legs and your ankles and feet as well. And remember sunscreen when your legs are exposed. Daily body lotion with SPF 15 is a good choice to avoid that greasy feeling.
  • Hands Over The Sky
    8. Palms of Hand, Soles of Feet, and Nail Beds
    These areas don’t seem like they would be common areas for skin cancer. In Caucasians, they aren’t. But if you have highly pigmented skin, these are areas to check. Melanomas are rare in people with dark skin. However, the palms, soles, and nail beds account for half of all melanomas that occur in African Americans.
  • Doctor examining mole on male patient
    Remember Self-Exams and Screenings
    Skin cancer is the most common cancer, affecting one in five Americans. Luckily, it is also largely preventable. Protect yourself by using sun protection measures, avoiding tanning beds and sun lamps, checking your skin regularly, and visiting a dermatologist for an annual full body check. 
8 Most Common Places to Get Skin Cancer
  1. Fast Facts About Sunburn and Skin Cancer. Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sunburn/facts-about-sunburn-and-skin-cancer
  2. Melanoma Skin Cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-what-is-melanoma
  3. The Nose: A High-Risk Area for Skin Cancer. Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma/the-nose
  4. VA Dermatologist Battles Skin Cancer. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.houston.va.gov/pressreleases/news_20090311g.asp
  5. The Ears, A High-Rick Area for Skin Cancer. Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma/the-ears-a-high-risk-area-for...
  6. What You Need to Know About Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/wyntk-skin-cancer
  7. Ouyang YH. Skin Cancer of the Head and Neck. SeminPlast Surg. 2010; 24(2):117–126.
  8. Skin Cancer of the Hand and Upper Extremity. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/Skin-Cancer-of-the-Hand.aspx
  9. Skin Cancer Information. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. http://www.asds.net/SkinCancerInformation.aspx
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 12
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