Older woman looking in mirror

Non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. Almost 10,000 people are diagnosed with it each year.

The main risk factor for developing non-melanoma skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) light from sun exposure.

On this page:

What is non-melanoma skin cancer?

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.

It tends to develop on the outer layer of the skin that is exposed to the sun. Skin cancer can usually be treated easily by removing the area of abnormal skin. It rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. Almost 10,000 people are diagnosed with it each year.

Skin with melanoma diagram

About your skin

The skin is the outer covering of your body. The skin has two main layers: 

  • The outer layer (epidermis) 
  • The inner or deeper layer (dermis)

The outer layer has three types of cells: 

  • Flat, scaly cells called squamous cells.
  • Rounder cells called basal cells, found below the squamous cells. 
  • Cells that give skin its colour (melanocytes). These are in between the basal cells. 

Non-melanoma skin cancer affects the squamous cells and basal cells.
Melanoma skin cancer affects the melanocytes.

The deepest layer called the dermis has blood and lymph vessels, hair roots and sweat glands.

More information about treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer

Treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer includes surgery, creams and photodynamic therapy.

For more information about treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer, visit our treatment page. For information about particular treatments, see the links below.

Looking for support?

Our cancer support section contains information and advice on coping with cancer for diagnosed patients and their loved ones.

Publications about non-melanoma skin cancer
Downloadable booklets and factsheets
Non-melanoma 2021 cover pic
Non-melanoma skin cancer booklet
This booklet for patients explains in detail what non-melanoma skin cancer is, how it's treated, and what to expect after your treatment.
Non-melanoma skin cancer leaflet
Non-melanoma skin cancer - What you should know
This leaflet explains what to check for when you're looking for changes that could be non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common kind of skin cancer.
Be Skin Smart - Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Be skin smart - Signs of non-melanoma skin cancer
Be skin smart! What to look for when you're checking for signs of non-melanoma skin cancer.
An A4 poster to download, share, or print.

For more information

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1800 200 700