Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
The cancerous growth of the skin is known as skin cancer, which is a life-threatening condition because it can be transmitted throughout the whole body easily.
There are three main types of skin cancer, which can be arranged by popularity the following way:
- basal cell carcinoma
- squamous cell carcinoma
The third type is the most rare condition amongst all, but it is considered more dangerous than the other two due to the fact that it originates from the pigment-producing skin cells – melanocytes. There are other types of skin cancer as well, but we’re going to focus on the main ones in this article.
Factors that lead to skin cancer
First and foremost, we must protect our bodies from the ultraviolet light exposure from the sun and the popular tanning beds. Individuals with pale skin, light eyes or blond-haired are quite vulnerable to the UV lights. The problem can be greater if the person is living in areas with high sunlight exposure. However, not only the UV light can harm your skin, but the exposure to X-rays as well.
Moreover, autoimmune diseases such as HIV and its later form AIDS can cause skin cancer. Some medications can also trigger cancer, as well as chemotherapy. Statistics show that elderly people are far more prone to the disease and ex-patients have around 20% chance of developing a second skin cancer in the next two years.
Studies have shown that the main factor for this disease is the ultraviolet light exposure and thus it’s not considered as hereditary. However, it is far more common for individuals with pale skin and the skin colour is inherited from the parents. That’s why it is recommended that poorly pigmented individuals must take greater care of their skin.
What are the main types of skin cancer?
- Basal cell carcinoma
It is considered as one of the most common types of cancers diagnosed in humans. According to statistics, over a million new cases are registered every year in the United States alone.
Note that there are different types of basal cell carcinoma, whereas the nodular type is the most common and the morpheaform is considered as the most challenging to cure.
- Squamous cell carcinoma
Statistics show that this type accounts for about 20% of all skin cancers. However, it is far more common with individuals who suffer from autoimmune diseases.
It is similar to the basal cell carcinoma, but with greater chances of spreading throughout the body.
Of course, there are many other types of skin cancers that are less common such as the lymphoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, melanoma and others.
What does skin cancer look like
The first type in our list, the basal cell carcinomas, have very few symptoms, while the second one can be quite painful for the patients. Both forms appear as small and slowly growing bumps that might bleed in certain cases.
For basal cell carcinomas they include:
- A white or yellow area with poorly defined border that appears like a scar.
- A patch of the skin in a reddish colour that itches.
- A pink, red or translucent bump
- A skin growth in pink colour with raised borders, crusted in the center.
For squamous cell carcinomas they include:
- Red patches with borders that bleed easily
- A skin growth with rough surface that’s indented in the middle
- A sore that doesn’t disappear for weeks.
There’s a condition known as actinic keratoses, which is generally a small injury caused by ultraviolet light, often found on the scalp, facial area or the back of the hands. If untreated, it results in the second type of cancer – squamous cell carcinomas.
Not all skin cancers look like the following descriptions, so please forward your concerns to your doctor. Watch out for the following signs:
- New spots
- Sores that don’t heal
- Unfamiliar spots that look nothing like the others
- Itching or pain on the skin
- Redness beyond the border of a mole
Doctors can diagnose the condition while performing a routine cancer-related check-up. It is recommended to examine yourself every month in front of a mirror. Look for the following signs:
- Borders: The edges of a mole can be ragged, notched or blurred.
- Colour: It can be a mix of two colours or it can be red, white, blue, pink, black or brown.
- Asymmetry: There are two parts of a mole that don’t match with each other
- Size: The spot is almost the size of a pencil eraser.
Common places where skin cancer develops
The skin cancer appears mainly on areas that have been repeatedly exposed to sunlight over the course of many years. Such areas include the face, scalp, back of the neck, ears and nose. They can also be found in other areas such as the back and the chest, but it is far rarer. So, we can conclude that this disease can occur in every part of the body.
The staging system for a skin cancer
The more unpleasant type of cancer – squamous cell carcinoma, has a staging system. Very often, a large tumour that’s thicker than 2 millimetres can appear on the ear. If a new tumour is found in near distance, then it can be considered as dangerous and it requires medical attention.
The basal cell carcinoma doesn’t have a staging system, but tumours larger than 2 cm require some serious measures. Furthermore, it is also considered dangerous if they are found on the eyelid, nose or ears.
To avoid having a skin cancer, you must not trigger the causes of tumour development. That’s why individuals must protect themselves from the sunlight using clothing or protective creams.
Tanning beds are a major cause of skin cancer and they pose a significant risk to our health. In recent years, the cases of this disease have increased significantly and the treatment can be quite expensive if it has been diagnosed at a later stage.