Skin cancer is a prevalent form of cancer. Luckily, this form can be cured when detected and managed early. Once an individual is suspected of skin cancer, it is vital to seek immediate medical attention for successful treatment.
Close look on skin cancer
Skin cancer involves uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. The healthy cells grow and divide in a methodical manner while the cancer cells grow and divide rapidly and in a disorganized way. The rapid growth can lead to the formation of tumors which are either benign or malignant.
- Basal cell
- Squamous cell carcinoma
Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma (non-melanoma skin cancer) are quite common. These types can be cured as long as treated early.
Melanoma is the dangerous type of cancer of the skin and responsible for causing deaths. If not treated or caught at an already advanced stage, it can spread to other organs where it is hard to treat.
What are the causes of skin cancer?
Always bear in mind that ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a cancer-causing agent among humans and the main cause of skin cancer. The UV light from tanning beds is equally harmful. Being exposed to sunlight during the winter season also has the same risk as exposure during summer.
Blistering sunburn during childhood increases the chances of developing melanoma later in life. A single session in a UV tanning bed can also increase the risk of developing squamous cell and basal cell type in some individuals.
Other uncommon causes of skin cancer include scars from burns or certain diseases, X-ray exposure and occupation exposure to certain chemicals.
Who are at risk?
Anyone can develop skin cancer but the risk is higher for those who have fair or freckled skin that easily burn, have blond or red hair and light eyes. Those who have dark skin are also prone to skin cancer although the risk is lower. Other potential risk factors include family history or personal history of skin cancer.
Individuals who engage in outdoor jobs or those who reside in areas with sunny climates face a higher risk. Even organ transplant donors are at high risk to develop squamous cell carcinoma. The risk factors distinct to melanoma include a history of severe sunburn and abundance of large-sized and irregular moles.
What are the indications?
The usual warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the skin such as a new growth or a change in an existing mole or growth.
Basal cell carcinoma
With this type of skin cancer, it manifests as a small, smooth, pearly or wax-like bump on the ears, face and neck or as a flat red, pink or brown colored lesion on the arms, trunk or legs.
Squamous cell carcinoma
This type can manifest as a reddish, firm nodule or a rough, scaly flattened lesion that can bleed, itch and become crusted. Both basal and squamous cell cancers typically occur on areas that are frequently exposed to the sun but can occur on any part of the body.
With this type of cancer, it appears as a pigmented bump or patch. It strikingly resembles a normal mole but has an irregular appearance. The ABCD rule serves as a guide on the signs to watch out for.
- Asymmetry – the shape of one side does not match with the other side
- Border – the perimeters or edges appear blurred or ragged
- Color – patchy shades of black, brown, red, tan, blue or white might be present
- Diameter – change in the size is evident
Watch out for pre-cancerous skin lesions that can develop into non-melanoma skin cancer. These appear as small-sized scaly red or tan spots and most often found on surfaces of skin frequently exposed to the sun such as the back of the hands and the face.