Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells and it is regarded as the most common type of cancer occurring by any lumps, bumps, spots, sores, or other marks on the skin as its first symptoms. It develops on those parts of the body which are mostly exposed to the sunlight including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, as well as on the legs in women. However, it can also occur on those parts of the body that don’t normally get sun exposure.
Skin cancer is regarded as one of the most common cancers that can appear anywhere on the skin. It happens due to the mutation in the DNA of the skin cells making the skin cells grow uncontrollably. It is considered some reasons for the skin cancer occurrence, including:
- Exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds;
- Exposure to certain substances;
- Exposure to intense X-rays;
- Exposure to solar lamps;
- Family history of skin cancer;
- Excessive sun exposure;
- Weakened immune system.
Skin cancer is classified into three main types including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. It usually does not spread to the other parts of the body in basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but it is likely to spread to the other parts of the body in melanoma type.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer caused in the outermost skin which is more exposed to sunlight. Basal cell carcinoma begins in the basal cells producing new skin cells that are controlled by a basal cell’s DNA. When a basal cell normally dies, a mutation in DNA makes it grow quickly leading to the abnormal cells which may cause some lesions on the skin. Due to the slow-growing masses, it rarely spreads to the other parts of the body.
BCC has some especial symptoms, including:
- The dome shaped bumps on skin which may change in appearance. They can be red, white or pink for the white people and brown or black for the black people;
- The red areas on the skin with itching, pain and even bleeding;
- The pink lesions on the skin;
- The pain that takes for more than 7-10 days.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is another common type of skin cancer caused in the squamous cells, in the middle and outer layer of the skin that can spread to other parts of body particularly to those parts that are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation as well as in the mouth or the genital organs.
SCC usually grows with the development of actinic keratosis lesions that usually appear like the rough dome shaped lesions in red, tan and pink. The lesions cannot be detected by the naked eye, and are felt like sandpaper. So, the treatment is very important when it happens.
The symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma are referred as:
- Open wounds with a scaly crust and bleeding that do not treat;
- Warts with a scaly crust and bleeding;
- Bleeding of the dome shaped bumps that are flat in the middle;
- Red and rough skin lesions with bleeding;
- Skin lesions with an intense itch.
Melanoma is regarded as the most serious form of skin cancer that is caused by cancerous moles, most often black or brown; however, they can be seen in skin-colored, purple, blue, red, pink, or white. Melanoma occurs in the melanocytes cells which are responsible for melanin, providing the skin-color pigment.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is considered the main reason for melanoma. The malignant moles will spread through the body rapidly if it is not treated in the right time which will make the treatment difficult. Melanoma can be curable successfully if it is detected early.
Moles or Nevus are usually in tan, black or brown. However, they may become darker due to the sun exposure and age. The moles are solid and symmetrical in an oval or round shape. The common moles are flat with smooth surface or raised and may change to these conditions by passing the time. They appear at any age mostly in youth. The appearance of the moles can be considered the first symptom of skin cancer. But it does not mean that each mole can cause the cancer. Those that cause melanoma skin cancer have certain signs which are known as the letters ABCDE referring their characteristics including:
- A for Asymmetry that describes their unusual shape;
- B for Border which refers to their irregular border;
- C for Color which revels their multi-colored appearance. One side of the mole may be darker than the other side or even it may be in white, blue or red;
- D for Diameter which says about their growth. They can become larger than the other kinds of moles;
- E for Evolving. They may appear different from the others in terms of size, shape or color.
However, the moles can be treated with different methods such as herbal therapy and laser therapy.
if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately:
- Some gray moles under the fingernails or toenails;
- Atypical moles with an irregular border;
- The moles with itching, pain and even bleeding;
- The dissimilar moles;
- Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles);
- Colored moles;
- Developing moles.
Different factors including sun exposure as the main one, the environmental hazards for example received radiation treatment, heredity etc. play important role in skin cancer. However, there is a high possibility to get skin cancer for people with the following conditions:
- People born with Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles);
- People with light-colored eyes and hair;
- People with fair skin and freckles;
- Some pigment disorders;
- A history of excessive sun exposure or severe sunburns;
- A history of skin cancer;
- Adults above the age 55.
Avoiding exposure to sunlight as well as following some effective strategies can highly prevent the skin cancer. The tips include:
- Using the sunblock with appropriate sun protection factor (SPE 30) 30 minutes before sun exposure and before going out into the sun. The reapplications should be done after two-hour outdoors, swimming or heavy sweating;
- Wearing protective clothing, hat and sunglasses especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when sunlight is considered the strongest;
- Regular skin examination by a doctor (once a year);
- Periodic skin self-examination.
Unlike public opinion about skin cancer, it is not contagious that means it does not spread to the others by touching, kissing, using the same materials and even the sexual relationship. Just in some rare cases, it is observed for melanoma to pass from a mother to the child.
There are various kinds of treatments for skin cancer, including:
- Cryosurgery or cryotherapy: it refers to the surgery in which a very cold liquid nitrogen with the temperature between -346 and -320°F is used to eliminate the damaged tissues both internally as well as externally;
- Curettage and electrodessication (C&D, or ED&C): the dermatologists use this basic skin surgery to scratch skin lesions by a sharp curette and then burn them through the electrodessication;
- Mohs micrographic surgery: the surgery is the in-office treatment used for the non-melanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In this procedure, the skin is exfoliated and examined under the microscope continuously to ensure that the cancer cells completely are removed;
- Surgery to remove lymph nodes: in this procedure, the surgery is done to remove the lymph nodes due to skin cancer, the melanoma;
- Immunotherapy or biologic therapy: it is described as the cancer treatment which enhances the body’s immune system and resistance to overcome cancer;
- Targeted therapy: the procedure is concerned about the cancer treatment in which the patient uses drugs. Targeted therapy aims at the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that involves the cancer.
The other treatments include topical medication, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and etc.