What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is an abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells, usually from harmful ultraviolet rays. This common form of cancer ordinarily occurs on areas of the skin exposed to sunlight but can form anywhere.
For skin cancer to occur an “error” or mutation occurs in the DNA of the skin cells. When these mutations occur the cells can rapidly grow and form a mass of cancer cells that can spread through multiple layers of the skin.
What Are The Causes Of Skin Cancer?
The causes of skin cancer vary and include:
- Exposure to UV rays ( from sunlight, tanning beds)
- Smoking in those with SCCs ( squamous cell carcinomas)
- Certain strains of HPV infection- can lead to skin cancer of the genitals, oral mucosa and lips
- A patient with Immune suppression-such as HIV disease and organ transplant recipients.
- Certain chronic skin conditions-such as lichen sclerosus
- Genetic conditions
- Exposure to arsenic
What Are The Types Of Skin Cancer?
The most common skin cancers are:
Basal cell carcinomas ( BCCs) – most often occurring on skin that is sun exposed this type will present as a bump or flat scar-like lesion
Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) – most often occuring on skin that is sun exposed this type will present as hard red nodules or flat scaly lesions especially in people with darker skin complexions
Melanoma – this type can develop in all areas of the body, even those not exposed to the sun. It can present as brown spotting, in moles that change size and color, oddly shaped and colored lesions and in lesions that cause itching or burning sensations.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer?
The signs and symptoms of skin cancer can vary and present uniquely based on the type referenced above. There are common signs that can be easily identified and should also be brought to your providers attention. Any enlarging lump or nodule, an ulcer, a changing lesion, or a bleeding lesion should be examined and biopsied to rule out skin cancer.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Skin Cancer?
Risk factors of Skin Cancer are:
- Individuals with fair skin, ultimately having less pigment (melanin)
- A history of sunburns
- An excessive exposure to UV rays ( from sunlight, tanning beds)
- HPV infection certain strains- genitals, oral mucosa, lips
- Personal and/or family history
- Genetic conditions
- Exposure to arsenic or radiation
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?
A suspected Skin cancer is usually diagnosed with a skin biopsy.
What Are The Possible Treatments For Skin Cancer?
The possible treatments for skin cancer include: Surgical Excision, wide local excision, Mohs Surgery, Electrosurgery & Curettage, Cryotherapy, topical fluorouracil cream, imiquimod cream, photodynamic therapy, and systemic immunomodulators.
Are There Preventative Steps Or Measures To Avoid Skin Cancer?
Preventative measures to minimize your risk of developing a skin cancer are:
- Avoid UV rays from 10 am-2 pm
- Wear sun protective clothing
- Apply Broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors
- Avoid tanning beds
- Schedule regular skin exams
What Are The Risks If Skin Cancer Is Left Untreated?
If a skin cancer is left untreated, there can be a local invasion and destruction of adjacent tissues and structures. Also, there is the risk of distant spread of the skin cancer to lymph nodes and other organs, including the liver and brain.