What Is Skin Cancer And Melanoma
Skin cancer is a disease that occurs when your skin cells grow abnormally, usually from too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
This uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells forms a tumour in the skin. Tumours are either benign , or malignant .
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer: each year, more than 13,000 Australians are diagnosed with a melanoma and almost 980,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are treated. Skin cancer is mostly preventable, and there are effective treatment options available.
Skin cancers are named according to the cells in which they form. There are 3 main types:
- Basal cell carcinoma begins in the lower segment of cells of the epidermis your outer layer of skin. These tend to grow slowly, and rarely spread to other parts of the body.
- Squamous cell carcinoma grows from the flat cells found in the top layer of your epidermis. SCC can grow quickly on the skin over several weeks or months. Bowens disease is an early form of SCC that hasnt grown beyond the top layer of skin.
- Melanoma grows from cells called melanocytes cells that give your skin its colour. Melanoma is the rarest type of skin cancer but is considered the most serious because it can spread quickly throughout the body.
BCC and SCC are also called non-melanoma skin cancers. BCC represents more than 2 in 3 non-melanoma skin cancers, and around 1 in 3 are SCC. There are other types of non-melanoma skin cancers, but they are rare.
The Difference Between Melanoma And Moles
When we say skin cancer in regard to moles, we are referring to melanoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and it usually affects existing moles or develops a new mole of its own. Melanoma is especially dangerous because it develops quickly and spreads throughout the body. Like any type of cancer, melanoma is the rapid and unchecked growth of cells in the body. Though melanoma starts on the skin and affects skin cells and melanocytes, it can develop quickly in other cells throughout the body and become life-threatening very quickly.
Early detection of melanoma is key, so dermatologists have developed a useful visual guide to differentiating melanoma and a benign mole. Doctors have crafted a simple acronym for explaining mole irregularity and melanoma. The ABCDEs of Melanoma refer to the five visible indicators of a potentially cancerous mole. If your mole exhibits one or more of these attributes, it may be melanoma.
A is for asymmetry, meaning one side of a mole is not the same as the other.
B is for border. Pay attention to the outside edge of your mole or moles.Are they are irregular, scalloped, or jagged in appearance?
C is for color. Is the color of your mole inconsistent, with varying shades of brown or black, and even white, blue, or red?
D is for diameter. Is your mole larger than 6mm in diameter? This is roughly the size of a pencil eraser. Melanoma may not start this large, but if a mole seems to be growing, take note.
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.
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Whats The Difference Between Skin Cancer And Melanoma
Whenever you hear or read about skin cancer, its almost always paired with Melanoma. In a way, theyre kind of like the Q and U of the cancer world. If youve noticed this before you may have wondered why, since Melanoma is just one type of skin cancer, it often gets its own separate reference. Thats a great question; and one with a very important answer.
Skin cancer carries two forms of classifications: Melanoma and non-melanoma. All skin cancers have the potential to be dangerous, but those of the non-melanoma variety are typically quickly detected, removed and usually dont pose much of a life-threatening risk. Melanoma on the other hand, if not caught and treated quickly, can spread well beyond the skin and severely damage a persons internal organs before becoming fatal.*
What Are Basal And Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancer. They start in the top layer of skin , and are often related to sun exposure.
Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer cells. To learn more about cancer and how it starts and spreads, see What Is Cancer?
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What Are Md Anderson Cancer Center At Coopers Skin Cancer Screening Guidelines
MD Anderson at Coopers skin cancer screening guidelines are based on your personal risk of skin cancer.
If you are at low risk of skin cancer, pay close attention to your skin. Promptly show your health care provider any:
- Suspicious skin area.
- Sore that does not heal.
- Change in a mole or freckle.
If you are at a high risk of skin cancer, get a complete skin evaluation by your health care provider every year and pay close attention to your skin. Promptly show your health care provider any:
- Suspicious skin area.
- Sore that does not heal.
- Change in a mole or freckle.
You are considered high risk for skin cancer if you have one or more of the following:
- Red hair and freckling.
- Albinism .
- Greater than 50 moles.
- Genetic syndromes associated with increased sun sensitivity.
- Exposure to a large amount of natural sunlight .
- History of using tanning beds or sun lamps.
- History of blistering sunburn.
- Personal history of pre-cancers, such as dysplastic nevi or actinic keratosis.
- Personal history of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer.
- Prior radiation therapy.
- Immunosuppressive therapy, especially after an organ transplant.
Surgery For Skin Cancer
Small skin cancer lesions may be removed through a variety of techniques, including simple excision , electrodesiccation and curettage , and cryosurgery .
Larger tumors, lesions in high-risk locations, recurrent tumors, and lesions in cosmetically sensitive areas are removed by a technique called Mohs micrographic surgery. For this technique, the surgeon carefully removes tissue, layer by layer, until cancer-free tissue is reached.
Malignant melanoma is treated more aggressively than just surgical removal. To ensure the complete removal of this dangerous malignancy, 1-2;cm of normal-appearing skin surrounding the tumor is also removed. Depending on the thickness of the melanoma, neighboring lymph nodes may also be removed and tested for cancer. The sentinel lymph node biopsy method uses a mildly radioactive substance to identify which lymph nodes are most likely to be affected.
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How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
Your doctor or dermatologist will first conduct a physical examination by looking at your skin to identify any suspicious spots using a dermatoscope .
Its not always possible to tell from looking at it whether a spot or lump is cancerous or not. So your doctor or dermatologist may take a skin biopsy. This is where part of, or all of, your spot is removed and sent for further study under a microscope.
Some smartphone apps allow you to photograph your skin and compare photos over time. While they can be a good reminder to check your skin and record details, they shouldnt replace a visit to the doctor. See a doctor if youre concerned about any spots or moles on your skin.
Causes Of Nail Fungus
With fungal nail infections, the main cause is typically
Certain behaviors and preexisting conditions that can affect your risk of nail fungus include:
- old age
There are many overlaps between nail fungus and nail cancer. Since its easy to mistake cancer of the nail for a fungal infection, you should see a doctor immediately to get a definitive diagnosis.
See a doctor immediately if you suspect you have toenail fungus or subungual melanoma.
Since the prognosis of subungual melanoma gets worse the longer it takes to diagnose, its better to be safe and get any possible symptoms checked out and cleared as soon as they appear.
Fungal infections are not considered life-threatening, but the 5-year survival rate for subungual melanoma can vary dramatically depending on how early the cancer is identified. According to the Canada Dermatology Association, chances of recovery can range anywhere from 16 to 80 percent .
If you wait too long for diagnosis and treatment, theres a risk of the cancer spreading throughout the bodys organs and lymph nodes.
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The Abcdes Of Melanoma
To help people find a possible melanoma on their skin, dermatologists created the ABCDEs of melanoma:
|A is for Asymmetry|
If you find a spot on your skin that has any of the ABCDEs of melanoma, see a board-certified dermatologist for a skin exam.
The following pictures can help you see how the ABCDEs of melanoma can appear on the skin.
What Causes Skin Cancer
Almost all skin cancers in Australia are caused by too much exposure to UV radiation. This is the part of sunlight that causes tanning, sunburn and skin damage over time. UV radiation also comes from non-natural sources such as sun beds .
While anyone can get skin cancer, it is more common if you are older. The risk is also higher if you have:
- previously had skin cancer or have family history of skin cancer
- fair or freckled skin, particularly if it burns easily or doesnt tan
- red or fair hair and light-coloured eyes
- a weakened immune system
- sunspots or irregular moles on your body
- worked, played sport or spent leisure time in the sun
- actively tan or use sun beds
If you have olive or dark skin, your skin produces more melanin, which protects against UV radiation. However, its still possible for you to develop skin cancer.
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Are There Complications Of Skin Cancer Treatment
Most skin cancer treatments involve some localised damage to surrounding healthy skin such as swelling, reddening or blistering of the skin where the cancer is removed. Your doctor will explain any specific risks, which may include:
- pain or itching where the skin has been treated, or if lymph nodes have been removed
- scarring or changes to skin colour, after a skin cancer has been removed
- bleeding during or after surgery for more complicated skin cancers
- reactions sometimes your body may react to medicines used in treatment or surgery
- lymphoedema if your lymph nodes have been removed your neck, arm or leg may swell with fluid.
Its best to manage complications as early as possible, so ask your doctor for advice.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
Melanoma is a skin cancer that can show up on the skin in many ways. It can look like a:
Spot that looks like a new mole, freckle, or age spot, but it looks different from the others on your skin
Spot that has a jagged border, more than one color, and is growing
Dome-shaped growth that feels firm and may look like a sore, which may bleed
Dark-brown or black vertical line beneath a fingernail or toenail
Band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail
Slowly growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar
This early melanoma could be mistaken for a mole, so its important to look carefully at the spots on your skin.
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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.
How Can I Prevent It
Women are typically thought to be better at taking preventive measures to care for their skin and prevent skin cancer so men, make sure you are also taking some caution. It is important for you no matter your gender to self-examine your skin, wear protective clothing, use sunscreen , wear a wide-brimmed hat, wear UV-blocking sunglasses, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest, and seek shade when outside.
These practices will help lessen the amount of ultraviolet radiation you are exposed to and decrease your risk of sunburn, both of which are big risk factors for skin cancer. Prevention is critical to avoid invasive procedures.
Remember, if you spot it early get it checked early by visiting a dermatologist. To find a dermatologist near you, go to bannerhealth.com/physician-directory.
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Amelanotic Melanoma: It Doesnt Look Like Other Melanomas
Odds are, if you have spent time on SkinCancer.org, you know the classic ABCDE warning signs of melanoma:;Asymmetry,;Border irregularity,;Color variations,;Diameter over ¼ inch or Dark in color, and;Evolution or change. But did you know that some melanomas have very different features?
For example, certain melanomas may have no color at all. Physicians refer to these as amelanotic melanomas, because they are conspicuously missing melanin, the dark pigment that gives most moles and melanomas their color. These unpigmented melanomas may be pinkish-looking, reddish, purple, normal skin color or essentially clear and colorless.
- An example of a flat, amelanotic, superficial spreading melanoma on the leg.
- A nodular melanoma developing within an amelanotic melanoma in situ on the scalp.
While these melanomas lack pigment, they may have other melanoma warning signs to stay on the lookout for, such as asymmetry and an irregular border. In addition, more and more physicians today stress the importance of the E in the ABCDEs evolution or change. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you;examine your skin head to toe every month, especially looking for any new mole;or any sign of change in an existing mole. If you spot any change that you consider suspicious, see a skin specialist without delay.
To help you spot unusual melanomas, you can also use early recognition strategies;beyond the ABCDEs, such as the Ugly Duckling sign.
What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck
Skin cancers usually present as an abnormal growth on the skin. The growth may have the appearance of a wart, crusty spot, ulcer, mole or sore. It may or may not bleed and can be painful. If you have a preexisting mole, any change in the characteristics of this spot – such as a raised or an irregular border, irregular shape, change in color, increase in size, itching or bleeding – are warning signs of melanoma. Sometimes the first sign of melanoma or squamous cell cancer is an enlarged lymph node.
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What Tests Are Used To Stage Melanoma
There are several tests your doctor can use to stage your melanoma. Your doctor may use these tests:
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: Patients with melanomas deeper than 0.8 mm, those who have ulceration under the microscope in tumors of any size or other less common concerning features under the microscope, may need a biopsy of sentinel lymph nodes to determine if the melanoma has spread. Patients diagnosed via a sentinel lymph node biopsy have higher survival rates than those diagnosed with melanoma in lymph nodes via physical exam.
- Computed Tomography scan: A CT scan can show if melanoma is in your internal organs.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan: An MRI scan is used to check for melanoma tumors in the brain or spinal cord.
- Positron Emission Tomography scan: A PET scan can check for melanoma in lymph nodes and other parts of your body distant from the original melanoma skin spot.
- Blood work: Blood tests may be used to measure lactate dehydrogenase before treatment. Other tests include blood chemistry levels and blood cell counts.
Seborrheic Keratosis Vs Melanoma: What Are The Characteristics Of Melanoma
Another big difference between seborrheic keratosis vs. melanoma is that melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can begin as a mole or wart. Its the most serious type of skin cancer and can spread to other areas of the body.
On some people, a melanoma may look like seborrheic keratosis. If you have a history of seborrheic keratosis, you may not notice melanoma in its early stages if youre accustomed to unusual skin growths.
Seborrheic keratoses and melanoma are not easy to distinguish, but a dermatologist may be able to tell the difference based on a physical examination. In some cases, however, it is necessary to take a biopsy of the growth to check for cancer under a microscope.
Both seborrheic keratosis and melanoma can appear in many forms. If youre concerned about any skin growths, you should not try to self-diagnose your condition or assume that a new skin growth is benign. If any new skin growths develop you should see your dermatologist, especially if the growth changes over time or you have a family history of skin cancer.
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