Can skin cancer spread to other parts of the body?

Most of the time, skin cancer affects only the skin and some of the surrounding tissue. However, if it is left untreated, skin cancer may metastasize, or spread throughout the body. If this happens, it usually spreads first to nearby lymph nodes and can later spread to distant organs. This is not very common for most types of skin cancer, though. If the cancer is caught early, treatments are effective at stopping the spread of the cancer.

Lori K. Gillespie, MD
Radiation Oncology

Yes! Skin cancer has the ability to spread just like most other cancers. However, the two most common types, basal and squamous, grow and spread very slowly. A third type of cancer, malignant melanoma, is much more likely to spread. If caught early, skin cancer is usually curable by simply having the lesion removed. It is important to screen for suspicious marks on the skin which may be cancerous, once a cancer spreads it becomes much more difficult to treat.

The most common forms of skin cancer, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, rarely spread beyond the skin. However, if untreated they can destroy the surrounding skin, soft tissue, and underlying bone. So it is important for these cancers to be removed.

While melanoma is much less common than basal or squamous cell carcinoma, it is much more harmful. Melanoma can spread from the skin to other parts of the body if not caught early. Melanoma is potential fatal if not removed before it spreads. So it is important to visit your Dermatologist at least once per year for a total body skin check. Your Dermatologist can identify any potentially worrisome spots and test them in the lab. If found removed early, your survival risk from a melanoma is excellent. However, once it spreads, complete cure is not likely and the melanoma can be fatal.


Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery
Yes, the three main types of cancer are melanoma, squamous cell and basal cell. Melanoma being the most aggressive.  Like all cancers, these can metastasize to other parts of the body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.