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Things You Should Know About Skin Cancer
Necessary Awareness for Skin Cancer
Awareness about Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common of all human cancers. Every year more cases of skin cancers are diagnosed than all the other major types of cancers like breast, lung, colon and prostate combined.
Basically, skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one of every five Americans are in danger of developing skin cancer in future. So, having a firm understanding of it and spreading as much awareness is possible is essential.
Types of Skin Cancer
Basically, skin cancers are of three major types:
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
The first two types of skin cancers fall into the group of non-melanoma skin cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute, almost 50% of Americans who live up to the age of 65 will encounter one of these two types of cancer at least once in their lifetime. Almost 90% of cases these most common two types of skin cancers occur due to the exposure to the UV radiation from the sun.
And the third kind, termed as melanoma, although comparatively less common are deadlier than the other two. It has been estimated that one person dies of melanoma every hour, according to the American Cancer Society. Therefore, despite being even less than one percent of all the skin cancer cases it is responsible for a vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
There are some other types of skin cancers, like Merkel cell tumors and dermatofibrosarcoma protruberans, which are rare and unusual.
Symptoms of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Early detection and prevention are crucial in treating skin cancer. If detected and removed early then treating skin cancer is almost 100% successful. So, having regular skin checkup is heavily recommended. Experts advise that having a monthly full body skin self-examination is essential. In this regard, you have to know the signs of skin cancer yourself.
Usually, the appearance of lumps, unusual moles or discolored patches persisting for a long time on the skin is the first sign of skin cancer. These lumps or patches usually persist for a week or even months. These can even continue to progress over years.
Most of the times, these cancerous lumps are red and firm. These lumps at times turn into ulcers. On the other hand, the patches are usually scaly and flat.
These types of skin cancers mostly start to develop on the exposed parts of the skin like the face, hands, ears, shoulders, upper chest and back.
At first, you may ask your doctor to have a full body examination for any possible unusual moles or lumps on the skin that might be cancerous. Then once you are aware of the signs yourself, you can continue doing the self-examinations continually. It may take only 10 minutes or so for you to do a self-examination.
Recently, a software has been developed that can diagnose skin cancer on its own. The software is likely to be available on your smartphones very soon.
Symptoms of Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and the success of treatment largely depends on the early detection of cancerous growth. The symptoms of it may appear as:
- Changes in already existing moles.
- Small dark and multicolored spots. These spots often have irregular borders and are either flat or elevated. These may even bleed and form scabs.
- A bunch of firms, shiny-dark bumps.
- Moles as the size of pencil erasers or even larger.
There’s an established formula to keep in mind for conducting the self-examination. You can easily memorize it. The formula is to remember the ABCDEs of melanoma, where -
- A stands for asymmetry and points to the asymmetrical nature of the moles and patches in case of melanoma skin cancer.
- B stands for border, and points to the uneven borders of the moles or other lesions.
- C stands for color and makes you remember that the multicolored moles are a warning sign.
- D stands for diameter that should remind you of the larger size of the moles.
- E stands for Evolving that points to the changing nature of the already existing moles.
Causes of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer begins on the epidermis that is the top layer of the skin. It is a thin layer that protects the skin cells. Hence, the most usual cause of skin cancer is having multiple sunburns and the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light that most commonly reaches the skin from the sunlight.
Other major causes of skin cancer are:
- Using tanning booths.
- Any immune system impairment, known as Immunosuppression.
- Unusually high levels of exposure to radiation like X-rays.
- Coming in contact with some chemicals like arsenic and hydrocarbons from soot, tar and oils.
Risk factors are those factors that increase the chances of developing skin cancer in future. However, these factors do not directly cause cancer. These can only influence the development of cancer. Besides, it has been observed that persons having multiple risk factors do not develop skin cancer whereas some other end up with it without having any single risk factor. But it is always a better option to be aware of the known risk factors of skin cancer.The following factors significantly increase the chances of developing skin cancers.
- Having fairer skin types that easily become sun burnt, or get freckled and painful in the sun.
- Having red or blond hair; and green and blue eyes.
- Some specific genetic disorders, like xeroderma and albinism, which diminish the number of skin pigments.
- Having moles in heavy amount, unusual types of moles and large moles.
- Having close relatives with skin cancer.
- Having severe sunburn in childhood.
- Having burns other than sunburns.
Non-melanoma skin cancers commonly occur more in elderly people whereas melanoma is commonly seen in younger persons aged between 25 and 29.
Prevention of Skin Cancer
Although there is no sure shot way to prevent skin cancer, it is very much possible to lower the risk of developing it through adequate preventive measures. Based on the risk factors listed above if you think you have increased chances of developing skin cancer, take necessary precautions as early as possible.
- Avoid exposure to sunlight as much as possible. Mostly avoid staying out between 10 am to 2 pm.
- Whenever you go outside wear hats with brims, dresses in long sleeves, trousers and sunglasses.
- Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing is very helpful in protecting your skin from UV light.
- Using sunscreen with SPF (sun protecting factor) of 30 or higher is always a good idea while being outdoors.
- Always keep an eye on the appearance of suspicious skin lesions or abnormal moles. Report to a doctor immediately if you notice such anomalies.
Usually, skin cancer is curable with various treatment options like surgeries, cryotherapy, radiotherapy, anticancer creams and photodynamic therapy. The treatment options will vary depending on the type, location, and size of the skin cancer. Most importantly, if you can detect cancer at the initial stage then the chances of successful treatment is almost 100%.
So, be on guard and take necessary preventive measures against skin cancer. Above all, consult with doctors to have early mole checks on the occasions of suspicion.