Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells. It most often develops on skin exposed to the sun. But this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight, such as genitals and buttocks. 

There are three major types of skin cancer:   
​Type of Skin Cancer
​Body Location
​Appearance Signs
​Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your ears, neck, face, or scalp.
  • A pearly or waxy bump
  • A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
​2. Squamous cell carcinoma​
​It occurs in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your ears, lips, and hands.
  • A firm, red nodule
  • A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
​Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body. Melanoma most often appears on the face or the trunk of affected men. In women, this type of cancer most often develops on the lower legs.
  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles or a mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds
  • A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black
  • Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus​

​Other, less common types of skin cancer include: Kaposi sarcoma
This rare form of skin cancer develops in the skin's blood vessels. It mainly occurs in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with AIDS, and in people taking medications that suppress their natural immunity, such as people who've undergone organ transplants
​It causes red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes

Signs and symptoms: 
Skin cancer primarily develops on areas of skin exposed to the sun, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, arms, chest, and hands, and on the legs in women. It can also affect areas of the skin that are rarely exposed to daylight (e.g. The palms of the hands, under the nails, the spaces between the toes, under the toenails, and the genital area). 

Skin cancer affects all skin colors, including dark skin. When skin cancer occurs in people with darker skin, it is more likely to occur in areas that are not exposed to sunlight. 

Skin cancer happens as a result of a DNA mutation to healthy skin cells. These mutations cause cells to grow out of control and thus a mass of cancerous cells to form. 

Skin cancer begins in your skin's top layer — the epidermis. The epidermis is a thin layer that provides a protective cover of skin cells that your body continually sheds.  The epidermis contains three main types of cells: 
  • Squamous cells:  They are found just under the outer surface of the skin, and function as the skin's inner lining. 
  • Basal cells: They are responsible for the production of new skin cells, and sit beneath the squamous cells. 
  • Melanocytes: They produce the melanin pigment, which gives the skin its natural color. The production of melanin increases when the skin is exposed to the sun to protect the deeper layers of the skin. 

UV rays and other possible causes of skin cancer: 
Much of the damage to DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight and in the lights used in tanning beds. Other factors may contribute to your risk of skin cancer, such as being exposed to toxic substances or having a condition that weakens your immune system. 

Risk factors:
Factors that may increase your risk of skin cancer include: 
  • Excessive sun exposure:  Anyone who spends considerable time in the sun may develop skin cancer, especially if the skin isn't protected by sunscreen or clothing.  
  • Age: The risk of developing skin cancer increases with age, because skin cancer develops slowly and may occur during childhood or adolescence and become apparent mid-life.
  • Skin color:  Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer.  However, having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation.  If you have blond or red hair and light-colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you're much more likely to develop skin cancer than is a person with darker skin. 
  • A history of sunburns: Skin cell damage occurs and increases your risk of skin cancer. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are a risk factor. 
  • Tanning, including exposure to tanning lamps and beds, also puts you at risk.  A tan is your skin's injury response to excessive UV radiation. 
  • Sunny or high-altitude climates: People who live in sunny, warm climates are exposed to more sunlight than are people who live in colder climates. Living at higher elevations, where the sunlight is strongest, also exposes you to more radiation.
  • Moles:   People who have many moles or abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi are at increased risk of skin cancer. These abnormal moles — which look irregular and are generally larger than normal moles — are more likely than others to become cancerous.  
  • Precancerous skin lesions: Having skin lesions known as actinic keratoses can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.  These precancerous skin growths typically appear as rough, scaly patches that range in color from brown to dark pink.  They're most common on the face, head and hands of fair-skinned people whose skin has been sun damaged. 
  • A family history of skin cancer:  If one of your parents or a sibling has had skin cancer, you may have an increased risk of the disease. 
  • A personal history of skin cancer:  If you developed skin cancer once, you're at risk of developing it again. 
  • A weakened immune system:  People with weakened immune systems have a greater risk of developing skin cancer. This includes people living with HIV/AIDS and those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant.
  • Exposure to radiation:  Exposure to substances like arsenic may increase the risk of skin cancer. 
Diagnosis of skin cancer:
  • To diagnose skin cancer, your doctor may examine your skin as follows to spot any abnormal changes. 
  • Remove a sample of suspicious skin for testing (skin biopsy):  Your doctor may remove the suspicious-looking skin for lab testing. A biopsy can determine whether you have skin cancer and, if so, what type of skin cancer you have. 

Generally, skin cancer is divided into two stages: 
  1. Topical:  In this phase cancer affects only the skin.  
  2. Metastatic:  In this phase cancer spreads beyond the skin. 
Note:   Determining the stage of skin cancer helps determine the treatment options most effective. 

Your treatment options for skin cancer will vary, depending on the size, type, depth and location of the lesions. Treatment options may include: 
  • Freezing. Your doctor may destroy actinic keratoses and some small, early skin cancers by freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery). 
  • Surgery. This type of treatment may be appropriate for any type of skin cancer.  
  • Laser treatment. This treatment option is used for topical skin cancer.  
  • Mohs surgery. This procedure is for larger, recurring or difficult-to-treat skin cancers, which may include both basal and squamous cell carcinomas. During Mohs surgery, your doctor removes the skin growth layer by layer, examining each layer under the microscope, until no abnormal cells remain.  It's often used in areas where it's necessary to conserve as much skin as possible. 
  • Curettage and electrodesiccation or cryotherapy. An electric needle destroys any remaining cancer cells.  This procedure is common in treating small cancer or basal cells. 
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be an option when cancer can't be completely removed during surgery. 
  • Chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, drugs are used to kill cancer cells.  For cancers limited to the top layer of skin, creams or lotions containing anti-cancer agents may be applied directly to the skin.  Systemic chemotherapy can be used to treat skin cancers that have spread to other parts of the body. 
  • Photodynamic therapy. This treatment destroys skin cancer cells with a combination of laser light and drugs that makes cancer cells sensitive to light.
  • Biological therap. Biological therapy uses your body's immune system to kill cancer cells. This includes some antivirals and interleukin 2.  
Most skin cancers are preventable.   To protect yourself, follow these skin cancer prevention tips: 
  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day. Schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even in winter or when the sky is cloudy. You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays. 
  • Wear protective clothing throughout the year.  Cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs.  
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat which can offer more protection, as well as protective shades.   
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.  Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your hands and neck.

  • Avoid tanning beds because they emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
  • Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications. Some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics and some cholesterol diabetes and hypertension drugs, as well as some painkillers (e.g. Advil, Motrin). Discuss taking these drugs with your doctor and take the precautions necessary accordingly. 
  • Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor. Examine your skin often for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk, and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands.  Examine both the front and back of your legs, and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks. 
  • Get checked-up regularly, especially if you have a history of the disease. 
  • Avoid life stress and feelings of depression. Depression weakens the immune system, putting you at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. 
  • Get enough sleep and rest and practice your hobbies.
  • Quit smoking. There is a strong correlation between cancer and smoking.
  • Proper nutrition: Choose foods that are rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and crushed wheat.  
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.  Exercise helps reduce the chances of developing cancer.  
  • Maintain your ideal weight. Research has proven that there is a strong correlation between obesity and cancer. You can reach your ideal weight with regular exercise and proper nutrition. 

How to examine your skin yourself?
  • Standing in front of a mirror, raise your hands up and examine the front and back of your body.
  • Look carefully at your arms, armpits, and the palm of your hand. 
  • Examine your feet and the space between your toes. 
  • With the help of a mirror, examine the back of your neck and your scalp.  Put your hair up to examine the area beneath it. 
  • Finally, check your back and buttocks using a hand mirror.


Last Update : 26 July 2021 03:39 PM
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