Protect Yourself From The Sun
Sun exposure is a major cause of skin cancer, so protecting yourself from the sun is critical. While many people wear sunscreen during the summer, its important to wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 all year round. Even when its cloudy, raining, or even snowing, the suns rays can still damage your skin. Protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, should also be used to physically shield yourself from the sun.
Medical Treatment For Skin Cancer
Surgical removal is the mainstay of skin cancer treatment for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. For more information, see Surgery.People who cannot undergo surgery may be treated by external radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is the use of a small beam of radiation targeted at the skin lesion. The radiation kills the abnormal cells and destroys the lesion. Radiation therapy can cause irritation or burning of the surrounding normal skin. It can also cause fatigue. These side effects are temporary. In addition, topical chemotherapy creams have been FDA approved for the treatment of certain low-risk nonmelanoma skin cancers. Patients with advanced or many basal cell carcinomas are sometimes prescribed oral pills to block the growth of these cancers. Side effects include muscle spasms, hair loss, taste changes, weight loss and fatigue.
In advanced cases of melanoma, immune therapies, vaccines, or chemotherapy may be used. These treatments are typically offered as clinical trials. Clinical trials are studies of new therapies to see if they can be tolerated and work better than existing therapies.
Diagnosis Of Skin Cancer
It is important to check your skin regularly and check with your doctor if you notice any changes.
In the majority of cases, your GP will examine you, paying attention to any spots that may look suspicious. Your GP may perform a biopsy . In some cases your GP may refer you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist, if necessary.
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Basal Cell Skin Cancer
Basal cell is the most common type of . Getting too much ultraviolet light from the sun or from a tanning bed can harm skin cells and cause basal cell skin cancer. When the damage comes from the sun, basal cell cancer takes years to develop. It usually shows up after age 50. It can develop faster if you use a tanning bed. If you have a light complexion and you burn easily, you are at higher risk for getting this skin cancer.
Signs of basal cell cancers include:
A dome-shaped skin growth that grows slowly. You may be able to see tiny blood vessels near the surface.
A pale, waxy growth that looks like a scar
A shiny, scaly patch that’s pink or red
- A sore that bleeds and crusts but does not heal
To diagnose basal cell skin cancer, doctors take off a small piece of a suspicious growth and check it under a microscope. This procedure is a biopsy. Basal cell cancers are very treatable because they grow slowly and rarely spread. They are almost always curable. Treatment options include:
Cryosurgeryfreezing the growth with liquid nitrogen
Curettage and electrodessicationscraping away the growth and then destroying any remaining cancer cells with an electrical current
Mohs surgeryremoving the cancer and some cells around it layer by layer and using a microscope to check the cells for cancer. If need be, more layers are removed and checked. This continues until the doctor finds no more cancer cells.
- Surgical removal
Skin Damage Adds Up With Each Sunburn Or Tan And May One Day Result In Skin Cancer
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous carcinoma, and melanoma. About 90% of skin cancers are the result of too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation from either the sun or indoor tanning .
The deadliest of the three types of cancer is melanoma. Melanoma is the eighth most common type of cancer among both men and women in NYS. For adults age 20 to 34 years, melanoma ranks among the top four cancers. Over the last 30 years, the number of cases of melanoma has increased.
The three most common types of skin cancer are curable if diagnosed at an early stage, and many skin cancers can be prevented by avoiding exposure to UV rays.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Skin Cancer
The most common risk factors for skin cancer are as follows.
- Ultraviolet light exposure, either from the sun or from tanning beds. Fair-skinned individuals, with hazel or blue eyes, and people with blond or red hair are particularly vulnerable. The problem is worse in areas of high elevation or near the equator where sunlight exposure is more intense.
- A chronically suppressed immune system from underlying diseases such as HIV/AIDS infection or cancer, or from some medications such as prednisone or chemotherapy
- Exposure to ionizing radiation or chemicals known to predispose to cancer such as arsenic
- Certain types of sexually acquired wart virus infections
- People who have a history of one skin cancer have a 20% chance of developing second skin cancer in the next two years.
- Elderly patients have more skin cancers.
Most basal cell carcinomas have few if any symptoms. Squamous cell carcinomas may be painful. Both forms of skin cancer may appear as a sore that bleeds, oozes, crusts, or otherwise will not heal. They begin as a slowly growing bump on the skin that may bleed after minor trauma. Both kinds of skin cancers may have raised edges and central ulceration.
Signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinomas include:
Signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinomas include:
- Persistent, scaly red patches with irregular borders that may bleed easily
- Open sore that does not go away for weeks
- A raised growth with a rough surface that is indented in the middle
- A wart-like growth
Types Of Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma skin cancer can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma skin cancer is also called cutaneous melanoma and malignant melanoma of the skin.
There are 4 main types of melanoma skin cancer superficial spreading, nodular, lentigo maligna and acral lentiginous.
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When To Seek Medical Care For Skin Cancer
Many people, especially those who have fair coloring or have had extensive sun exposure, periodically check their entire body for suspicious moles and lesions.
Have your primary health care provider or a dermatologist check any moles or spots that concern you.
See your health care provider to check your skin if you notice any changes in the size, shape, color, or texture of pigmented areas .
If you have skin cancer, your skin specialist or cancer specialist will talk to you about symptoms of metastatic disease that might require care in a hospital.
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
First, your dermatologist may ask you if you have noticed any changes in any existing moles, freckles or other skin spots or if youve noticed any new skin growths. Next, your dermatologist will examine all of your skin, including your scalp, ears, palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, around your genitals and between your buttocks.
If a skin lesion is suspicious, a biopsy may be performed. In a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. Your dermatologist will tell you if your skin lesion is skin cancer, what type you have and discuss treatment options.
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Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
The causes and risk factors for squamous cell cancer are similar to those for basal cell. Getting too much ultraviolet light causes precancerous skin growths called actinic keratoses . These may develop into squamous cell cancers. AKs may appear as dry, scaly growths in areas of the body that get a lot of sunthe face, ears, hands, arms and legs. AKs may burn or itch.
Signs of squamous cell skin cancer include:
How Dangerous Is Melanoma
Melanoma is usually curable when detected and treated early. Once melanoma has spread deeper into the skin or other parts of the body, it becomes more difficult to treat and can be deadly.
- The estimated five-year survival rate for U.S. patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99 percent.
- An estimated 7,180 people will die of melanoma in the U.S. in 2021.
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What Causes Skin Cancer
The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight, especially when it results in sunburn and blistering. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage DNA in your skin, causing abnormal cells to form. These abnormal cells rapidly divide in a disorganized manner, forming a mass of cancer cells.
Another cause of skin cancer is frequent skin contact with certain chemicals, such as tar and coal.
Many other factors can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. See question, Who is most at risk for skin cancer?
Where Does Skin Cancer Develop
Skin cancer is most commonly seen in sun-exposed areas of your skin your face , ears, neck, arms, chest, upper back, hands and legs. However, it can also develop in less sun-exposed and more hidden areas of skin, including between your toes, under your fingernails, on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet and in your genital area.
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Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The two most common kinds of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are sometimes called nonmelanoma skin cancer. These cancers are carcinomas that begin in the cells that cover or line an organ.
Basal cell carcinoma accounts for more than 90 percent of all skin cancers in the United States and is the most common of all cancers. Typically, it is a slow-growing cancer that seldom spreads to other parts of the body.
Squamous cell carcinoma also rarely spreads, but does so more often than basal cell carcinoma. It is important that skin cancers are found and treated early because they can invade and destroy nearby tissue. Organ transplant recipients have a 65-fold higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma than others. UCSF Medical Center offers a High Risk Skin Cancer Clinic for those at high risk for non-melanoma skin cancers, such as transplant recipients.
Reduce Your Skin Cancer Risk
Beyond living a healthy lifestyle, it is important to avoid exposure to sunlight as much as is reasonably possible. Eating a balanced diet and staying physically active improves the bodys ability to fight free radical damage and heal.
Protecting Your Skin
Any time there has been a darkening of the skin after sun exposure it is a sign that some damage has been sustained. Since the incubation period for skin cancers and photo-aging is quite long , it may be difficult to convince sun worshipers to head indoors.
Avoiding UV Damage
The use of clothing, searching for shade, and the application of effective, broad-spectrum sunscreens are all useful behaviors in limiting sun damage.
Seeking Shade to Avoid Skin Cancer
Shade is the first defense against skin damage. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the suns rays are at their most intense, find cover or wear a wide-brimmed hat. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends hats with broad brims all around that are at least three inches wide.
Although shade is an important protection against skin cancer, it may still leave you vulnerable to UVB light, which can reach skin indirectly. UV radiation can bounce off of clouds, dry sand, concrete and other UV-reflective surfaces.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen
Additional Information on Skin Cancer
For more information about Skin Cancer, please consider the following:
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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.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated
Treatment depends upon the stage of cancer. Stages of skin cancer range from stage 0 to stage IV. The higher the number, the more cancer has spread.
Sometimes a biopsy alone can remove all the cancer tissue if the cancer is small and limited to your skins surface only. Other common skin cancer treatments, used alone or in combination, include:
Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze skin cancer. The dead cells slough off after treatment. Precancerous skin lesions, called actinic keratosis, and other small, early cancers limited to the skins top layer can be treated with this method.
This surgery involves removing the tumor and some surrounding healthy skin to be sure all cancer has been removed.
With this procedure, the visible, raised area of the tumor is removed first. Then your surgeon uses a scalpel to remove a thin layer of skin cancer cells. The layer is examined under a microscope immediately after removal. Additional layers of tissue continue to be removed, one layer at a time, until no more cancer cells are seen under the microscope.
Mohs surgery removes only diseased tissue, saving as much surrounding normal tissue as possible. Its most often used to treat basal cell and squamous cell cancers and near sensitive or cosmetically important areas, such as eyelids, ears, lips, forehead, scalp, fingers or genital area.
Curettage and electrodesiccation
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Most Common Types Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States with an estimated one in five Americans developing skin cancer in their lifetime. First and foremost, its important to know that certain factors may increase your risk, but skin cancer can affect people of all races and skin colors. Secondly, you should take the time to educate yourself about the most common types of skin cancer and some signs that you should look for.
1. Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, as well as the most common of all cancers. There are an estimated 4.3 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. However, despite its prevalence, when treated early it is nearly 100% preventable and rarely spreads. Basal cell carcinoma most often appears on areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun such as the face, head, neck and arms, though it can form anywhere on the body. Signs to look out for include:
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, basal cell carcinoma has the potential to invade the surrounding tissue and grow into the nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin include a:
- Firm, red nodule
Screening For Cancerous Moles
If a mole looks or acts at all peculiarly it is best to have it evaluated by an expert. This frequently is a dermatologist. Most dermatologists can tell if the pigmented lesion is composed of melanocytes or is something quite different with no possibility of being a melanoma. Many dermatologists now use a hand-held magnifying device which produces polarized light to evaluate colored melanocytic tumors. The use of this instrument improves the doctor’s ability to identify suspicious lesions.
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Can Skin Cancer Spread To Other Parts Of The Body
Yes, it can. However, it depends on the type of skin cancer and its stage.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are less likely to spread. Basal cell carcinoma usually does not migrate to other parts of the body, but there is a small chance that squamous cell cancer will do so.
Melanoma skin cancer spreads more readily than non-melanoma, making it more dangerous. It can spread to the lymph nodes and, from there, to other organs in the body.
What Are The Signs Of Skin Cancer
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on your skin, typically a new growth, or a change in an existing growth or mole. The signs and symptoms of common and less common types of skin cancers are described below.
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. Basal cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in the world. In most people, its slow growing, usually doesnt spread to other parts of the body and is not life-threatening.
Signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:
- A small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, and neck.
- A flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
- Areas on the skin that look like scars.
- Sores that look crusty, have a depression in the middle or bleed often.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. This skin cancer can also form in areas such as mucus membranes and genitals.
Signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:
- A firm pink or red nodule.
- A rough, scaly lesion that might itch, bleed and become crusty.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma include:
- A brown-pigmented patch or bump.
- A mole that changes in color, size or that bleeds.
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