Cancer is a medical condition and arises when the body produces uncontrollable and dangerous cells. Skin cancer is diagnosed when the skin cells in the body get out of control. It can lead to the tumor outgrowing the original infected organ (skin in this case). As the cells proliferate, they tend to attach themselves to other areas to form new tumors. In the case of skin cancer, these masses generally take the form of moles or other kinds of skin abnormalities. Hence, diagnosing it at an early stage and treating it can prevent its spread to other parts of the body. Compared to other cancers, skin cancer is considered as one of the most commonly diagnosed. It is especially among people with light skin.
What are the different types of Skin Cancer?
There are three main types of Skin Cancer. Read about each below:
All about Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma: Considered as the most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma grows slowly and appears in patients at a later stage, usually at age of 40 or over. This type of carcinoma has the tendency to only spread to the surrounding tissues. It is not widespread i.e. it normally does not spread to other distant parts of the body. However, it must be treated.
Basal cells: Basal cells are those situated at the base of a multilayered tissue and constitute the lower layer of the epidermis. They are normal skin cells that can later develop into cancerous cells, probably due to regular exposure to the sun.
Occurrence: Watch out for different areas of the body or the scalp which are directly exposed to the sun daily. Remember, you are more prone to developing basal cell cancer if you have light hair, skin and eye color.
Signs of Basal cell carcinoma: If you notice a lesion which is pearl-like or waxy in appearance that looks flat or slightly raised, then it could be a sign of basal cell carcinoma. The color of the lesion could also be brown, the color of your flesh, white or light pink. You might notice blood vessels in the lesion or the skin surrounding the infected area. Seek treatment immediately.
Treatment: Basal cell carcinoma is often removed by excision, where the tumor is cut out. Mohs surgery is a more exact method of excision that limits damage to surrounding tissue.
All about Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma: Compared to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma is more aggressive. It could spread faster to another part of the body. Typically it appears after the age of 50, but not always.
Squamous cells: Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that resemble the scales of a fish and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of hollow organs, respiratory and digestive tracts.
Occurrence: Squamous cell carcinoma can arise in the middle layer of the skin or even in a burned or injured area.
Signs of Squamous cell carcinoma: Watch out for rough or scaly red patches that might crust or bleed. Lumps with a lower area in the center and open sores that don’t heal are other signs.
Treatment: Surgery and then possibly radiation therapy. Systemic chemotherapy is another option for patients with squamous cell cancer.
All about Melanoma
Melanoma: Melanoma is not as common, as but more deadly than other skin cancers.
Melanoma cells: These cells produce the pigment melanin that colors the skin, hair and eyes.
Occurrence: Four types of melanoma exist. They vary per the location on the body where they are likely to occur, the age group, and the groups of people most likely affected.
Signs of Melanoma: Watch out for darkening of the skin or lumps.
Treatment: Depending on the type of melanoma, surgical removal of the lesion is normally required. More serious forms may require radiation treatments or chemotherapy.
Causes of Skin Cancer
There are innumerable causes of skin cancer, but prolonged sun exposure is the main reason for most of the skin cancer cases. If you’re worried about getting adequate vitamin D levels (and you should be), it’s best to get it through supplements and diet. Of course, consult your doctor before adding any new supplements or making diet changes.
The Sun: The sun is one of the major reasons we contract skin cancer. The ultraviolet radiation from the sun is likely to damage the skin cells and DNA over time. Hence, it is advisable that we do not spend too much time exposing our skin directly to sunlight.
Tanning Beds: Getting yourself a tan might be in vogue and stylish, but it could have an adverse effect on your body. Tanning aids including any artificial light sources like beds, lamps, bulbs, booths, etc might cause skin cancer. They emit UVA and UVB radiation, which is considered to be very harmful and even stronger than the rays received from actual sunlight.
Toxins & Chemicals: Toxins and chemicals are another reason some people develop skin cancer. Too much exposure to toxins in our environment can cause a reaction to those chemicals. Regular use of cosmetics over the years is also another factor. Many products contain chemicals that can cause allergies and skin irritation. Ladies, if you do wear makeup, be sure to remove it at night and choose the most natural products available.
Signs of Skin Cancer
A sore or lesion: A sore that just won’t heal or lesions that look like a scar, but is not from a skin injury are some warning signs. Don’t wait too long to get it looked at! Seek immediate attention if you think you may have skin cancer. Visit your doctor about any suspicious skin lesion or sore. Another characteristic to watch out for is the border, color, size, and lack of symmetry of the lesion which sometimes indicates a cancerous growth. But don’t try to diagnose yourself. Please see a Board-Certified Dermatologist.