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How Bad Is Skin Cancer

The Facts The Risks How They Affect You

Skin cancer prevention during the winter months
Indoor Tanning Dangers

75%increased risk of developing life-threatening melanoma from just one indoor tanning session before age 35.

Tanning outside or indoors can have dangerous consequences. While often associated with good health, the glow of a tan is the very opposite of healthy its evidence of DNA injury to your skin. Tanning damages your skin cells and speeds up visible signs of aging. Worst of all, tanning can lead to skin cancer.

Its a fact: There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. Tanning increases your risk of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Your best defense is to avoid tanning altogether.

How Dangerous Is Melanoma Its All A Matter Of Timing

Skin cancer holds the unfortunate distinction of being the worlds most common cancer. Though its prevalence around the globe is disturbing, there is some good news: When caught early, skin cancers are highly curable.

You might already know that catching a cancer early means a more favorable prognosis. But it can be difficult to comprehend just how big a difference early detection makes with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma should never be underestimated, but treating a tumor early rather than after it is allowed to progress could be lifesaving.

Leland Fay, 46, understands better than most the seriousness of this distinction. When the Monument, Colorado native was diagnosed with melanoma in 2012, he was given a bleak prognosis due to the advanced stage of the tumor it had already reached stage IV.

Leland hadnt thought much of the little black mole on his head a few months earlier, when a dermatologist froze it off during a routine exam. But the mole resurfaced, bigger than it had been originally. After a biopsy and imaging tests, doctors told Leland it was melanoma, and that it had already spread. He could have as few as six weeks to live.

To fully comprehend the significance of timing, it can be helpful to understand exactly what happens to a melanoma when it advances to a later stage, and what it means when a melanoma spreads beyond the original tumor site.

How Is Melanoma Treated

Your melanoma treatment will depend on the stage of the melanoma and your general health.

Surgery is usually the main treatment for melanoma. The procedure involves cutting out the cancer and some of the normal skin surrounding it. The amount of healthy skin removed will depend on the size and location of the skin cancer. Typically, surgical excision of melanoma can be performed under local anesthesia in the dermatologist’s office. More advanced cases may require other types of treatment in addition to or instead of surgery.

Treatments for melanoma:

  • Melanoma Surgery: In the early stages, surgery has a high probability of being able to cure your melanoma. Usually performed in an office, a dermatologist numbs the skin with a local anesthetic and removes the melanoma and margins .
  • Lymphadenectomy: In cases where melanoma has spread, removal of the lymph nodes near the primary diagnosis site may be required. This can prevent the spread to other areas of your body.
  • Metastasectomy: Metastasectomy is used to remove small melanoma bits from organs.
  • Targeted cancer therapy: In this treatment option, drugs are used to attack specific cancer cells. This targeted approach goes after cancer cells, leaving healthy cells untouched.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy includes treatments with high-energy rays to attack cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Immunotherapy: immunotherapy stimulates your own immune system to help fight the cancer.

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Uv Exposure And Overexposure

UV exposure stimulates melanocytes to produce melanin, often resulting in a tan or sunburn, both of which indicate overexposure and damage to the skin, skin cells, and DNA within those skin cells., The underlying biology of skin cancer risk is directly related to damage to the skin and its genetic material. Although all UV exposures can affect skin cancer risk, entirely avoiding UV rays from the sun is neither realistic nor advisable for most Americans. Spending time outdoors is associated with positive health benefits, such as increased levels of physical activity and improved mental health.-

How Often Does Bcc Spread

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Metastasis is rare with BCC, occurring in between 0.0028 and 0.55% of all cases. When it does occur, the lymph nodes, lungs, and bone are the most common sites of metastasis.

If BCC remains localized, there is a five-year survival rate of 100%. If BCC metastasizes, the outcomes are generally poor with median survival times ranging from eight months to 3.5 years.

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Where Do Skin Cancers Start

Most skin cancers start in the top layer of skin, called the epidermis. There are 3 main types of cells in this layer:

  • Squamous cells: These are flat cells in the upper part of the epidermis, which are constantly shed as new ones form. When these cells grow out of control, they can develop into squamous cell skin cancer .
  • Basal cells: These cells are in the lower part of the epidermis, called the basal cell layer. These cells constantly divide to form new cells to replace the squamous cells that wear off the skins surface. As these cells move up in the epidermis, they get flatter, eventually becoming squamous cells. Skin cancers that start in the basal cell layer are called basal cell skin cancers or basal cell carcinomas.
  • Melanocytes: These cells make the brown pigment called melanin, which gives the skin its tan or brown color. Melanin acts as the bodys natural sunscreen, protecting the deeper layers of the skin from some of the harmful effects of the sun. Melanoma skin cancer starts in these cells.

The epidermis is separated from the deeper layers of skin by the basement membrane. When a skin cancer becomes more advanced, it generally grows through this barrier and into the deeper layers.

The Four Major Types Of Melanoma

Melanoma can be divided into different subtypes. A few of the most common subtypes are:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma.Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of melanoma. Lesions are usually flat, irregular in shape, and contain varying shades of black and brown. It can occur at any age.
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma. Lentigo maligna melanoma usually affects adults over 65 and involves large, flat, brownish lesions.
  • Nodular melanoma.Nodular melanoma can be dark blue, black, or reddish-blue, but may have no color at all. It usually starts as a raised patch.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma.Acral lentiginous melanoma is the least common type. Typically it affects the palms, soles of the feet, or under finger and toenails.

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How Do I Check For Skin Cancer

The best way to check for skin cancer is to carry out regular skin self-examinations . We recommend you examine your skin regularly, ideally once a month. Early detection can help to reduce the risk of developing a larger, more serious skin cancer that may need extensive surgery or treatment. You should be looking for:

  • New skin lumps, spots, ulcers, scaly patches or moles that werent there before
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Any areas on the skin that are itchy, painful or bleed

How to examine your skin: Ideally you should examine your skin in a warm, well-lit room with the following equipment:

  • A chair
  • A tape measure or ruler
  • A digital camera to record any skin marks you are not sure about

To make sure that you check all your skin, we suggest you examine yourself from head to toe following these steps. Use a mirror to check difficult-to-see areas or ask a friend or relative to help you.

Head

Beginning with your head, examine your scalp using a comb to part your hair so you can check all over your scalp. Go on to look over your face and neck. Dont forget to check behind your ears and the back of your neck.

Upper body

Check your shoulders, chest and abdomen, again using a comb to part any hair to examine the skin underneath. Dont forget to examine under your breasts and in the groin area.

Arms and hands

Back

Legs and feet

How Is Melanoma Diagnosed

Tips for avoiding skin damage and dangers of skin cancer

If you have a mole or other spot that looks suspicious, your doctor may remove it and look at it under the microscope to see if it contains cancer cells. This is called a biopsy.

After your doctor receives the skin biopsy results showing evidence of melanoma cells, the next step is to determine if the melanoma has spread. This is called staging. Once diagnosed, melanoma will be categorized based on several factors, such as how deeply it has spread and its appearance under the microscope. Tumor thickness is the most important characteristic in predicting outcomes.

Melanomas are grouped into the following stages:

  • Stage 0 : The melanoma is only in the top layer of skin .
  • Stage I: Low-risk primary melanoma with no evidence of spread. This stage is generally curable with surgery.
  • Stage II: Features are present that indicate higher risk of recurrence, but there is no evidence of spread.
  • Stage III: The melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes or nearby skin.
  • Stage IV: The melanoma has spread to more distant lymph nodes or skin or has spread to internal organs.

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How Common Is Melanoma

Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancers, but causes the great majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Its one of the most common cancers in young people under 30, especially in young women.

Melanoma incidence has dramatically increased over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that increasing levels of ultraviolet exposure are one of the main reasons for this rapid rise in the number of melanoma cases.

Causes Of Skin Cancer

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Anyone can be at risk of developing skin cancer, though the risk increases as you get older.

The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to UV radiation in sunlight.

Some factors that increase your risk of skin cancer include:

  • sunburn

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Sunburn Treatment And Relief

For Adults: 5 Ways to Treat a Sunburn

1. Act Fast to Cool It Down

If youre near a cold pool, lake or ocean, take a quick dip to cool your skin, but only for a few seconds so you dont prolong your exposure. Then cover up and get out of the sun immediately. Continue to cool the burn with cold compresses. You can use ice to make ice water for a cold compress, but dont apply ice directly to the sunburn. Or take a cool shower or bath, but not for too long, which can be drying, and avoid harsh soap, which might irritate the skin even more.

2. Moisturize While Skin Is Damp

While skin is still damp, use a gentle moisturizing lotion . Repeat to keep burned or peeling skin moist over the next few days.

3. Decrease the Inflammation

If it is safe for you to do so, take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug , such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin at the first sign of sunburn to help with discomfort and inflammation, says Dr. Brackeen, who practices at the Skin Cancer Institute in Lubbock, Texas. You can continue with the NSAIDs as directed on the label until the burn feels better. You can also use an over-the-counter 1 percent cortisone cream as directed for a few days to help calm redness and swelling. Aloe vera may also soothe mild burns and is generally considered safe. Continue with cool compresses to help discomfort, wear loose, soft, breathable clothing to avoid further skin irritation and stay out of the sun entirely until the sunburn heals.

4. Replenish Your Fluids

Possible Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma

Marisha Dotson

The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color.

Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin .

If you have one of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a doctor.

The ABCDE rule is another guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for Border:The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color:The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter:The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across , although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Some melanomas dont fit these rules. Its important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.

Other warning signs are:

  • A sore that doesnt heal
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
  • Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
  • Change in the surface of a mole scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump

Also Check: Well Differentiated Squamous Cell Carcinoma Prognosis

For More Information About Skin Cancer

National Cancer Institute, Cancer Information Service Toll-free: 4-CANCER 422-6237TTY : 332-8615

Skin Cancer Foundation

Media file 1: Skin cancer. Malignant melanoma.

Media file 2: Skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma.

Media file 3: Skin cancer. Superficial spreading melanoma, left breast. Photo courtesy of Susan M. Swetter, MD, Director of Pigmented Lesion and Cutaneous Melanoma Clinic, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

Media file 4: Skin cancer. Melanoma on the sole of the foot. Diagnostic punch biopsy site located at the top. Photo courtesy of Susan M. Swetter, MD, Director of Pigmented Lesion and Cutaneous Melanoma Clinic, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

Media file 5: Skin cancer. Melanoma, right lower cheek. Photo courtesy of Susan M. Swetter, MD, Director of Pigmented Lesion and Cutaneous Melanoma Clinic, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

Continued

Media file 6: Skin cancer. Large sun-induced squamous cell carcinoma on the forehead and temple. Image courtesy of Dr. Glenn Goldman.

What Does Skin Cancer Look Like

Basal cell carcinoma

  • BCC frequently develops in people who have fair skin. People who have skin of color also get this skin cancer.

  • BCCs often look like a flesh-colored round growth, pearl-like bump, or a pinkish patch of skin.

  • BCCs usually develop after years of frequent sun exposure or indoor tanning.

  • BCCs are common on the head, neck, and arms however, they can form anywhere on the body, including the chest, abdomen, and legs.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment for BCC are important. BCC can grow deep. Allowed to grow, it can penetrate the nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin

  • People who have light skin are most likely to develop SCC. This skin cancer also develops in people who have darker skin.

  • SCC often looks like a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then re-opens.

  • SCC tends to form on skin that gets frequent sun exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, and back.

  • SCC can grow deep into the skin, causing damage and disfigurement.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent SCC from growing deep and spreading to other areas of the body.

SCC can develop from a precancerous skin growth

  • People who get AKs usually have fair skin.

  • AKs usually form on the skin that gets lots of sun exposure, such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms.

  • Because an AK can turn into a type of skin cancer, treatment is important.

Melanoma

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Risk Of Further Melanomas

Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups.

Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems.

After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. A combination of sun protection measures should be used during sun protection times .

As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times.

It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.

Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Survival Rates

Skin Cancer Reconstruction-Mayo Clinic

Because basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are lower-risk skin cancers, theres little information on survival rates based on stage.

Both types of cancer have a very high cure rate. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for basal cell carcinoma is 100 percent. The five-year survival rate for squamous cell carcinoma is 95 percent.

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