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Skin cancer:What it is,What to do about it?

Updated on October 14, 2012
Basal cell skin cancer before removal
Basal cell skin cancer before removal | Source

The most common cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet light which makes fair skinned people with

green or blue eyes most susceptible to it. Skin cancer begins as non-malignant lesions which have the potential of becoming malignant over time. A mole, otherwise known as a nevus has the potential to become cancerous over time but most moles are harmless, common skin growths-very few of them become malignant.

Skin cancer is of three main types-basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Most skin cancers are either basal or squamous cell malignancies and are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body.

They are associated with exposure to sunlight and are commonly found on the back of the hands or the face. They tend to grow slowly over time and can cause some disfigurement if not treated early. They are more often found in the elderly.. A sore or lesion that does not heal well may indeed be a basal call carcinoma.One of the advantages of skin cancer over other forms of cancer is the way that the symptoms present in the early stages in a visible way which gives one a better chance of responding to them.

Squamous cell carcinomas present as thickened, red, scaling patches on skin that has been exposed to the sun.

Bleeding and ulceration are common in both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

Surgical procedures to remove basal and squamous cell malignancies are successful in about ninety-five percent of cases. The risk of spread of these cancers to other parts of the body is low (about five per cent).In this regard,we can consider skin cancer one of the most treatable forms of the disease.

Melanomas are a less common type of skin cancer but are significant because they are very aggressive and can spread easily to other parts of the body. Even though melanoma is far more rare than the other two types it accounts for more than three quarters of skin cancer deaths. It is different from the other two types in another way because it is more commonly found in younger people. In the majority of cases, melanomas present as black or brown pigmented lesions. A change in the shape, colour, size or elevation of a previously benign mole is worth investigating as this may be a sign of melanoma. Bleeding, itching, pain or ulceration of an existing mole and the development of a new mole are symptoms which warrant investigation by your doctor.

A good prognosis for recovery from melanoma depends on it being detected and treated early. There are various avenues of treatment for this condition including chemotherapy and radiation but surgery is the most common and most effective treatment. Melanoma is more common in women than men and is commonl;y found in light-skinned caucasians who live in sunny climates.

Prevention of skin cancer is better than cure as in any other disease. As exposure to sunlight is so directly linked to the prevalence of all skin cancers limiting exposure to the sun, especially at the hottest time of the day is basic to avoiding the development of skin cancer.

Using a sunscreen is also beneficial to prevent damage from the harmful rays of the sun to exposed areas of the skin. Appropriate clothing also has a role to play in preventing skin cancer i.e. wearing a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves is sensible when exposed to strong sun. It is also recommended that artificial tanning or sunbeds should be avoided to prevent the onset of skin cancer.

Finally, it is worth becoming aware of where your blemishes, birthmarks and moles are. Become familiar with them and examine them routinely for any changes in texture, colour or size.

Although the majority of skin cancers respond well to treatment and are not life-threatening, being aware of the risk factors and taking appropriate actions to avoid them makes a lot of sense.

There are other cancers which are not detectable as early as skin cancer and don't respond as well to treatment.It is important therefore to look out for changes in moles and/or skin pigmentation and avoid exposure to too much sunlight if you are fair-skinned.


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    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 4 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Sorry to hear about your sister Peter. You are right-life is very unfair sometimes. Haven't been on here for a while so I must go and have a look to see if you have written anything new. I always like reading your stuff. Thanks for taking the time to comment-your feedback is appreciated.


    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Kate

      Thanks for an excellent article on skin cancer. On New Year's Day I lost my lovely sister to melanoma which had been ignored by her GP until it spread to her heart etc. As you say most skin cancers are easily treated with an excellent prognosis but she didn't tell me about the ulcers on her legs and she assumed her GP knew what he was doing.

      Life can be a real pig sometimes.

      Kind regards Peter