In some countries skin cancer is the most common cancer among the human beings.
If detected late, skin cancer can invade neighbouring muscles or even bones. Tumours may also affect other organs like lung or liver and lymph nodes.
The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma (black skin cancer).
Skin cancer starts as a precancerous lesion, raised from the normal skin or a normal mole and turns to real cancer over time. Dysplasia is the mostly used medical term for the precancerous lesion. Common dysplastic skin lesions are actinic keratosis, a red or brown patch with scaly, rough skin and Dysplastic nevus, an abnormal mole, which can develop into melanoma over time. Moles (nevi) are simply brown growths on the skin.
What causes skin cancer?
- UV light, mostly from sun, is the most frequent cause
- Use of tanning booths
- Immune-compromised patients, as a consequence of some diseases or medications for autoimmune diseases or prevent organ transplant rejection.
- Exposure to unusually high levels of x-rays and certain chemicals
Who is per se at higher risk to develop skin cancer?
- Fair skin
- Light hair and eye colour
- Certain genetic disorders
- Numerous or unusual moles, or moles which exist since birth
- Skin cancer in past medical history or family history
How can you recognize symptoms of skin cancer?
BCC is usually a lesion on the sun-exposed skin of the head, neck, or shoulders and often mistaken for a sore that does not heal. The majority of melanomas are brown to black lesions. Warning signs include change in size, shape, colour, or elevation of a mole. The appearance of a new mole during adulthood, or new pain, itching, ulceration, or bleeding of an existing mole
What is the treatment of skin cancer?
Even the very aggressive melanoma, if detected by your dermatologist at early stage, is cured by a simple small surgical removal under local anaesthesia inside the dermatology clinic. If metastasis has been diagnosed, radio and chemotherapy might be used. The latest FDA approved effective therapy for certain cases is the oral treatment with BRAF inhibitors.
For certain types of Basal cell carcinoma non invasive methods like photodynamic therapy are proved to be safe.
How can you prevent skin cancer?
You can extremely reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
Careful sun exposure, does not mean total sun avoidance!
- avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Use frequently a sunscreen with high sun protection factor (SPF) that blocks UVA and UVB light before and during sun exposure. Do not stay longer than recommended by your dermatologist according to your skin type
- If you easily develop sunburn, cover your body and head
- Avoid artificial tanning booths.
- Let your experienced dermatologist to check your skin yearly with a dermatoscope or the advanced screening methods like “Fotofinder”. This technique avoids unnecessary mole removals because of the more precise resolution of the screened moles. Additionally cell growths during follow ups can be detected by saving the moles in the system. Medical professionals who are not familiar with different clinical appearances of skin cancer may overlook a malignant lesion.
Though several studies demonstrate that the number of skin cancer cases is growing in many countries, fortunately, increased awareness of people and their health-care providers has resulted in earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes.