What is Skin Cancer? What you need to know
Skin cancer, although it seems small, can be quite deadly if it is not caught on time. As for how it develops, the cancer develops when DNA is damaged beyond repair. The cells that are damaged then grow and divide at a rate that is uncontrollable. When this damage occurs in the skin and the cells grow and divide uncontrollably, skin cancer is the result. The damaged cells will continue to multiply and that will cause a tumor.
The cancer usually develops in the epidermis, which is the outermost skin layer. That is why the skin cancer tumor is usually quite visible. This is why skin cancer is usually detectable in the early stages.
Sun exposure seems to be the main reason why skin cancer develops. The American Cancer Society has stated that most of the 1 million cases of skin cancer that are diagnosed each year could be prevented with proper sun ray protection. It is the UV rays from the sun that causes DNA to become damaged. The body is such an amazing machine that it can usually repair this DNA damage, but there is a time in which that repair may not take place. Cumulative sun exposure can cause this and later lead to skin cancer. This is why some individuals do not develop skin cancer until 30 or 40 years after they have had the extensive sun exposure.
What do the different types of skin cancer look like?
There are different types of skin cancer that a person can acquire. There are actually 3 main types. These 3 types account for all of the cases of skin cancer. What makes them different is the fact that these 3 cancers start in different skin cells. This is how each cancer gets their name; they are named based on the cell that they develop from. It is also important to note that there are two classes of skin cancers. The first class is nonmelanoma skin cancers and the second is melanoma skin cancers. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Here are the three different types:
• Basal Cell Carcinoma – This is the most common form of skin cancer. More than 1 million people in the United States develop this form of cancer, which also means around 80% of all skin cancers are of this type.
This type of skin cancer develops in the basal cells. These are cells that are present in the lowest layer of the epidermis. It can take on several forms. It can appear as a pearly nodule or it can appear as a nodule that is translucent. The sore may continuously heal and then re-open. The growth may also be elevated and slightly pink. Some individuals may even notice a waxy scar or a reddish patch of skin that simply looks irritated.
Basal cell carcinoma usually shows up on areas of the skin that has been exposed to the sun. This means it is common to find this sort of cancer on the face, the nose, the head, the ears, the arms, chest, and other areas of the upper body that have dealt with sun exposure. It can take years for these tumors to grow to a size of about ½ inch. The good news, however, is that these tumors don’t usually metastasize, which means it doesn’t spread to other parts of the body. The main issue is damage of the surrounding tissue.
• Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This type of skin cancer accounts for approximately 16% of all skin cancer cases. The cancer starts in the squamous cell, which are the skin cells that are found in the upper layer of the epidermis. About 200,000 people are diagnosed with this each year. Those individuals who are most susceptible are those that have fair skin and are middle-aged or elderly and have had extensive sun exposure in the past.
As for the appearance, the cancer appears as a crusty or scaly area of skin that is red and inflamed at the base. This area looks like a growing tumor, an ulcer that won’t heal, or a patch of skin that is crusted over. This is also a cancer that tends to be found on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun. However, it can be found virtually anywhere on the skin, including the genitalia and the inside of the mouth.
This is a form of skin cancer that needs early intervention because it can metastasize, causing the cancer to spread to other areas of the body.
• Melanoma – Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. About 4% of skin cancers are melanoma and it begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells within the skin that give it its color. This is the most lethal form of skin cancer because of its ability to rapidly spread to the internal organs and the lymph system. Every single hour, there is one person in the United States who has died from Melanoma. The highest mortality rate is amongst white Caucasian men. It is believed that this is because men are more likely to not pay attention to the early warning signs.
Fortunately, when caught on time, Melanoma has a 95% chance of being cured. However, the prognosis is not very good once it starts spreading. The reason why it can be hard to identify is the fact that melanoma will develop on an existing mole or it may look like a new mole that has developed. This is why it is important for individuals to be familiar with the appearance of their moles so they can notice whether or not the appearance changes. If the appearance changes, that is a sign that melanoma may be present.
There are other nonmelanoma skin cancers that are in existence, but they do account for less than 1% of skin cancers. These nonmelanoma skin cancers include Merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, and dermatofibromasarcoma protuberans.
Facts and symptoms of skin cancer
As for who gets skin cancer, individuals of all different colors are susceptible to it. However, it is most common in individuals with fair skin. Individuals who have a tendency to burn, have a lot of freckles, or who have a family history of skin cancer are also quite susceptible to it. In individuals with dark colored skin, melanoma can develop in areas that have never been exposed to the sun. But this isn’t saying that individuals with light skin can’t have it develop in these areas as well.
Unfortunately, the number of skin cancer cases is on the rise. People do know that excess sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, but most do not do what they need to protect their skin from the sun’s rays. If these trends continue, 1 in 5 people in America will have skin cancer at some point in their life. Melanoma is actually becoming more prevalent in women between the ages of 20 and 29.
When skin cancer is suspected, two types of biopsies may take place. The first is the excisional biopsy, which means the entire tumor and tissue not related to the tumor is also removed. This is the best way to remove legions that are suspected melanoma. The second is the incisional biopsy, which just a portion of the area is removed in order to acquire a sample. The sample or the tumor is then examined under a microscope to determine if it is really cancer and, if so, what kind of cancer it is.
Hot to treat skin cancer
A biopsy is done to determine if skin cancer is really the issue. From here, a dermatologist will discuss the best treatment options. The treatment depends on the type of skin cancer, the location of it, how bad it is, how aggressive it is, and the overall health of the patient. In some cases, the skin cancer may just need to be removed through a very minor surgery. In more extreme cases, the skin cancer may need to be removed and radiation or chemotherapy treatments administered, especially if the cancer has metastasized.
The main goal of skin cancer treatments is to remove the cancer completely, reduce the chances of it coming back, and make sure healthy tissue is preserved. It is also very important to minimize the scarring after surgery has taken place.
How to prevent skin cancer
The prevention of skin cancer lies in protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. The instance of skin cancer occurring is reduced significantly when protected from the sun. It is also idea to stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. When the rays are the strongest, a broad spectrum sunscreen can offer quite a bit of protection. It is also recommended that individuals use a sunscreen of an SPF 15 or higher year round can be quite helpful.
It is also ideal to cover the skin when possible. Wear hats when in the sun and try to reduce the amount of exposed skin without overheating.
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