What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer What Does Melanoma Look Like And Is It Caused By Sunburn
THERE are hundreds of different types of cancer and it remains one of the biggest killers.
The deadliest form is lung cancer, followed by bowel, prostate and breast cancer.
These four cancers account for almost half, 45 percent, of all cancer deaths.
In the UK, around 16,200 people a year are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, according to Cancer Research.
Of these patients, approximately 2,333 deaths occur tragically.
And spotting the first signs of the disease could make all the difference in survival.
Experts recommend that people check their skin regularly to check for potential signs of disease return or the appearance of new melanomas.
How Can Melanoma Spread To The Brain
While melanoma normally begins in the skin, cancer cells sometimes grow and break away from the place where the cancer began. The cells that break away often travel to nearby:
Once in the blood or lymph , the melanoma cells often travel to the lungs, liver, spleen, or brain.
Cancer cells growing bigger than normal cells
Cancer cells can grow, break off, and spread.
Sun Exposure Does Not Cause Melanoma
Melanoma is a very aggressive type of cancer that can begin as a skin development;but can quickly metastasize to other parts and organs of the body. Less than 2% of all instances of skin cancer are of type melanoma.
Nevertheless, melanomas insidious nature makes it responsible for most of the deaths resulting from skin cancer. However, as weve said earlier, documented studies have ruled out sunlight as a cause of melanoma.
Our breakthrough begins with Dr. Daniel Colt from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. As a skilled surgical oncologist, he shared his analysis of melanoma at the Health Education Seminar 2012 organized by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
In his findings, he presented an extraordinary evidence that cleared a lot of legends about melanoma.
During his presentation, he shocked the congregation when he postulated that sun exposure is not the cause of most melanomas. Henceforth, avoiding the sun and using sunblock will not prevent melanoma.
Dr. Colt further explained that genetics are the primary cause of melanoma. It is linked to family history and is caused by gene mutation.
In 2002, a detailed melanoma review from the UK had also brought some compelling data. The analysis was conducted in five studies that analyzed links between melanoma and sunscreen.
The conclusion of the report is that there is no compelling link between using sunscreen for protective use and prevention of melanoma.
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High Sun Protection Factor
The intervention that has attracted most media attention is the recommendation to use sunscreen with a high SPF. However, studies that are not randomised and double-blind have a risk of selection bias. There has been only one randomised clinical interventional trial on whether sunscreen can protect against skin cancer . This was an open study in which half the participants were given free SPF 16 sunscreen along with instructions to apply it to the head, neck, arms and hands every day, while the other half received no specific intervention and presumably continued as before. Half of the participants were also independently randomised to take beta-carotene or placebo. The study tested the effect on keratinocyte carcinomas only, and the results showed that neither sunscreen nor beta-carotene had any effect on these cancers . However, a follow-up study was subsequently conducted that also included malignant melanoma, and this study found an almost significant reduction of malignant melanoma in the sunscreen group . A new endpoint was thus added after the study had been completed, which is not good practice. No change in melanoma-related mortality was detected, but the follow-up time was too short to see any long-term effects.
The Obvious Signs Of Melanoma
Now that you know all the crazy places melanoma can appear, what should you watch out for? Dr. Khetarpal says the simplest way is to remember the ABCDEs of melanoma:
A – Asymmetry: If you were to cut the mole in half, does one side looks different than the other?
B – Border: Is the border of the mole irregular instead of round?
C – Color: Are there multiple shades of color?
D – Diameter: Is the mole larger than a pencil eraser?
E – Evolving: Has the mole changed shape or color or does it bleed?
Most melanomas have two or more of the above characteristics. However, if you have a mole that appears to be changing in size, shape, and/or color, or you’ve answered “yes” to two or more of the above, Dr. Khetarpal says you should have the mole checked.
Our experts say there are some less obvious signs to watch for too, such as:
Anything strange or different underneath your nails
Bumps on your scalp or behind your ears
Bleeding when you brush your hair
Any unusual itching, bleeding, or skin changes
As soon as you experience any of these signs, go see a dermatologist. We do the biopsy in the office. Its a very simple procedure. And we know for melanoma that early detection is key, so at the earliest sign of something changing, you should seek medical attention, Dr. Khetarpal advises.
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Does Ultraviolet Light Cause Melanoma
There is solid descriptive, quantitative, and mechanistic proof that ultraviolet rays cause the main skin cancers . They develop in pale, sun exposed skin,1 are related to degree of exposure and latitude,2 are fewer with avoidance and protection,34 are readily produced experimentally,4 and are the overwhelmingly predominant tumour in xeroderma pigmentosum, where DNA repair of ultraviolet light damage is impaired.
None of these is found with melanoma. Variation is more ethnic567 than pigmentary,8 and 75%
What Is Nodular Melanoma
Nodular Melanoma is perhaps the most aggressive variant of skin cancer. This is because Nodular Melanoma spreads very quickly and aggressively and in many cases they are not even observed until it has spread to other organs. The appearance of Nodular Melanoma is more like a bump that sticks out of the surface of the skin.
This bump is medically termed as polypoid. These bumps are generally dark in color but they can also be blue or gray and in some cases even white. The bumps may at times look similar to a mushroom complete with even a stem. The surface of the bumps can be crusted or smooth. These bumps may become dry, cracked, and sometimes bleed. As a rough estimate, around 15-30% of all cases of melanomas are Nodular Melanomas which makes it the second most common type of melanoma.
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Can The Disease Be Treated
When found early, skin cancer can often be treated successfully.
How skin cancer is treated depends on a few factors.
Types of treatment can depend on the type of skin cancer, how far it’s spread, where the cancer is and what stage its at.
The main treatment for skin cancer is surgery to remove it from the affected area.
Usually, the surgery carried out is minor and carried out under local anaesthetic.
Some may be given a skin graft depending on where the cancer is – or if it covers a larger area.
However, types of surgery do vary, and depend on where the cancer is and how big it is.
When surgery cannot be used, other treatments include: radiotherapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy cream.
What To Know About Skin Checks
So, where do skin checks come into all this? We recommend that people do self-skin checks monthly, advises Dr. Khetarpal. Take a look at all your moles to make sure nothing has changed, and consider having a partner help you look, she adds. Nobody knows your body better than you do, points out Dr. Rajput. Youre looking for something different or something thats changed on your body.
As for how often you need to have your skin thoroughly checked by a dermatologist, Dr. Khetarpal says it depends. The majority of melanoma cases are found in people after the age of 55, she says. In general, for people that are fair-skinned and that have had their fair share of sun exposure, we recommend getting a baseline screening skin exam around the age of 50. That way we can assess their risk and decide how often we need to see them.
However, if you have a first-degree relative that has been diagnosed with melanoma, Dr. Khetarpal advises starting those annual skin checks when youre 40. And, if youve had a diagnosis of melanoma yourself, youll have to be checked more often. How often depends on the stage of melanoma you were in when it was diagnosed, Dr. Rajput says, but it could be every three to six months.
And, if you have a lot of little moles , Dr. Rajput advises that you see a dermatologist for a baseline skin exam, too, to check them out, and to give the doctor an idea of how often you need to be screened in the future.
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How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
Skin cancer is suspected by its appearance on the skin. The diagnosis must be confirmed with a biopsy. This involves taking a sample of the tissue, which is then placed under a microscope and examined by a dermatopathologist, a doctor who specializes in examining skin cells. Sometimes a biopsy can remove all of the cancer tissue and no further treatment is needed.
Using The Sun To Your Advantage
The key principle in healthy sun exposure is to spend as much time in the sun as you can and never get burned. If you have light skin, this may be only 10-20 minutes during peak UVB hours . If you have darker skin, it may take your body some time to reach peak vitamin D production.
Sunscreen and long-sleeved clothing can stop the rays in their tracks, so make sure to give the sun some real estate by exposing your arms and/or shoulders while outside. If youre going to be outside for long period of time, soak up the sun for a bit and cover up or apply some homemade sunscreen to protect your skin from burning.
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Cosmetics And Skin Care Products
Many cosmetic, skin care, and other personal care products have long lists of ingredients. Some of these ingredients may be harmful in large quantities.
For the most part, though, cosmetics and personal care products dont have high enough levels of certain toxic ingredients to cause cancer.
According to the ACS, there havent been enough long-term studies in humans to make claims about cancer risk. But, the health risks of long-term exposure to certain toxins cant be ruled out completely.
If you have concerns about a product youre using, check the ingredients and consult with a dermatologist.
Ask Your Doctor For A Survivorship Care Plan
Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan might include:
- A suggested schedule for follow-up exams and tests
- A schedule for other tests you might need in the future, such as early detection tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from your cancer or its treatment
- A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch for and when you should contact your doctor
- Diet and physical activity suggestions
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Melanoma: The Deadliest Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, because it tends to spread if its not treated early.
This cancer starts in the melanocytes cells in the epidermis that make pigment.
About 100,350 new melanomas are diagnosed each year.
Risk factors for melanoma include:
- Having fair skin, light eyes, freckles, or red or blond hair
- Having a history of blistering sunburns
- Being exposed to sunlight or tanning beds
- Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation
- Having a family history of melanoma
- Having many moles or unusual-looking moles
- Having a weakened immune system
Melanoma can develop within a mole that you already have, or it can pop up as a new dark spot on your skin.
This cancer can form anywhere on your body, but it most often affects areas that have had sun exposure, such as the back, legs, arms, and face. Melanomas can also develop on the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, or fingernail beds.
Signs to watch out for include:
- A mole that changes in color, size, or how it feels
- A mole that bleeds
Sun Protection And Vitamin D After Melanoma
Date August 2015
Humans generally make most of their vitamin D when their skin is exposed to the sun. This advice is written for melanoma patients in the UK in particular because what we say about vitamin D depends on what the weather is like and whether foods such as orange juice are fortified. In the UK few foods are fortified and the weather is not particularly sunny so that low levels of vitamin D are a particular problem. Similar conditions may apply to other countries in temperate regions of the world but this information is developed based upon research in the UK.
Once you have been diagnosed with melanoma, healthcare teams usually advise you to avoid too much intense sun exposure. This is for two reasons:
- It may reduce the risk of developing another melanoma, which is important as 1 in 10 melanoma patients develop other primary melanomas in time.
- There are theories that sunburn may stop your immune system working as well as it should.
Yet, we know sun exposure is generally important to health because it allows your body to make vitamin D, which is crucial for bone and muscle health. Older people taking vitamin D for example are less likely to fall. Click;here;to download a leaflet which provides advice on this.
If you were to significantly reduce the amount of sun exposure you get now, then this may reduce your chance of another melanoma but could damage your health by reducing your vitamin D levels.
So what is our advice to you?
Most importantly, avoid sunburn
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Sun Cells And Skin Cancer
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer; this can be directly from the sun or through man-made sources such as sunbeds. The role of sun damage is supported by the association between measures of sun sensitivity and skin cancer incidence, which is higher in people who have pale skin that burns without tanning, blue eyes and fair hair . Both the duration and severity of exposure is important: there is a;dose-response relationship;between the number of sunburn episodes during any life period and the risk of melanoma, meaning that the greater the number of times you have been sun-burnt the greater the chance of developing skin cancer.
UV radiation can induce cellular changes consistent with the;hallmarks of cancer;such as genomic instability and mutation, as well as initiating tumour-promoting inflammatory responses. This set of abnormal cellular behaviours characterise cancer and promote development and progression of tumours.
Sean Lock’s Cancer Battle
Comedian Sean Lock tragically died aged 58 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
The star was best known for appearances on panel shows 8 Out Of 10 Cats and 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.
He was previously diagnosed with skin cancer in 1990 while he worked as a labourer on a building site.
He blamed over-exposure in the sun for his skin cancer, which he was tested for after a woman noticed “something weird” on his back. The star had the mark removed and went on to make a recovery.
His agent confirmed on August 18 the beloved comedian had died from cancer, but did not specify which type of the disease.
For more information visit:;cancerresearchuk.org
How Is Melanoma Treated When It Spreads To The Brain
Scientists have learned that attacking this cancer with different types of treatment can improve how well each individual treatment works.
According to the Emory Medical Center, doctors used this approach to treat Mr. Carter. His treatment began with surgery. This was followed by radiation therapy and immunotherapy .
Keep all of your follow-up appointments
Research shows that the earlier melanoma is found in the brain, the more effective treatment can be.
When melanoma spreads to the brain, the treatment plan may include:
Surgery: Doctors may recommend surgery to:
Remove the tumor.
Reduce the size of a tumor. This can make other treatments more effective.
Take out some of the tumor so that it can be examined. This allows your doctors to choose the medication most likely to help.
Relieve symptoms, such as headaches.
While surgery can remove existing tumors, other treatment often follows. This approach helps to kill cancer cells that surgery cannot remove.
Following surgery, you may be treated with radiation, medication, or both.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy helps to kill cancer cells that are too small to be seen. It may also be a treatment option when several tumors have formed in the brain or surgery is too risky.
Two types of radiation therapy are used to treat melanoma in the brain:
The type of radiation used depends on many considerations, including the number of tumors and where they appear in the brain.
Supportive care can:
Does Sunlight Cause Skin Cancer
There is evidence that sunlight causes skin cancer. Skin cancer can be treated and cured without serious consequences. However, in some cases the condition can be life-threatening if not diagnosed in time.
Skin cancer is an occupational concern for people who work under the sun. The risk however, may be reduced through awareness of the problem, and by taking measures to prevent exposure to sunlight.
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