What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the skin. There are many different kinds of skin cancers, and most of them involve exposure to the sun. However, some skin cancers can also develop in areas where there is no sun exposure. Skin cancer is one of the easiest cancers to cure, however, early detection and treatment are crucial to the outcome.
Types of skin cancer
The most common types of skin cancer are the basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma. The less common types of cancers are Kaposi sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and sebaceous gland carcinoma.
Symptoms of skin cancer
Basal carcinoma will usually manifest itself in the sun-exposed areas of your body like the face or neck. Most commonly, you will notice waxy bumps, flat, brown lesions or scabbing sores that don’t fully heal.
Squamous carcinoma might appear as firm, red nodules or scaly, flat lesions in sun-exposed areas of your body. Darker skinned people are more likely to develop squamous carcinoma in non-exposed areas of their bodies.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on your body. Men mostly develop melanoma on their faces or trunks, while women mostly develop it on their lower legs. Melanoma appears as large, brown spots with dark speckles, or as lesions with irregular borders with hues of red, white, blue, pink or black, dark lesions that burn or itch, lesions on soles of feet, palms, fingertips or toes or soft membranes lining your mouth, nose, genital organs or anus. Moles that change shape, size or start bleeding could be a sign of melanoma.
Kaposi sarcoma manifests as purple or deep red patches either on your skin or mucous membranes and is likely to occur if your immune system is compromised.
Merkel cell carcinoma takes the form of firm, shiny nodules that appear just below the skin or in hair follicles in your upper body areas like face, neck or trunk.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma is rare cancer but is very aggressive. It can occur anywhere in the body but mostly occurs as hard, painless nodules in the area of the sebaceous gland, which is the eyelid.
Early detection and prevention
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone practice regular self-examinations of all parts of their skin. If any new lesions are observed, or if any mole is changing shape or size, bring it to the attention of your doctor. If detected early, skin cancers are one of the easiest cancers to cure.
The best prevention measure for skin cancer is to avoid the peak of UV rays from the sun during midday. Using sunscreen, sunglasses, and fuller clothes provide additional protection from exposure to the sun. Children should be taught these sun-safe behaviors so that they are maintained long term.
If you have noticed some abnormal lesions on your skin or moles that have grown in size or shape, the first step will be to make an appointment with a medical clinic with experience in treating all types of skin cancers. Here suspected skin cancers will be biopsied to identify the exact nature and stage of cancer. Most of the time, treatment will involve surgery with excision. Sometimes electro-desiccation or curettage might be used. Non-surgical treatments might include radiation, cryotherapy or topical chemotherapy.
In addition to removing or treating the cancers, most skin cancer clinics will offer different reconstructive surgeries to repair the damage to the skin by surgery. Resulting scars can also be treated so as to provide an aesthetically pleasing result.