Radiation Therapy For Skin Cancer
Radiation therapy for non-melanoma skin cancer is an effective alternative to surgery. This type of treatment has minimal side effects, scarring and quick healing.
Radiation therapy is considered an effective cancer treatment for most non-melanoma skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Radiation therapy works by directing forms of radiation, including X-rays or electrons, onto the areas of the skin affected by cancer. This type of radiation is emitted from a machine positioned outside the body, and the radiation doesnt penetrate beneath the skin.
According to American Cancer Society, radiation is effective enough to be considered a cure for some small basal and squamous cell skin cancers. It may be recommended as the primary type of cancer treatment in cases in which the skin cancer covers a large area or is in a hard-to-reach area that would be difficult to treat with surgery. In advanced skin cancer, radiation therapy may prevent or slow the growth of tumors, and it may be used after surgery as additional treatment to kill remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy can also be used in people who have skin cancer thats spread to their lymph nodes or other areas of the body.
Major Types Of Skin Cancers And Their Distribution In People Of Color
Skin cancer is mainly divided into two main categories as Non melanoma Skin Cancer and Melanoma Skin Cancer . Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma . Each of these most common cancers viz. Basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma , and melanoma is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises and has been linked to the varying degree of sun exposure .
NMSC greatly outnumber melanomas in incidence but fortunately most are much easier to treat and have much better long-term prognosis . They are less deadly than melanoma mainly due to their tendency to remain confined to their primary site of disease which makes their management much more straightforward. The devastating majority of keratinocyte malignancies progress in the areas of skin most exposed to UV such as on the face and arms . The BCC and the SCCs often carry a UV-signature mutation indicating that these cancers are caused by UV-B radiation via the direct DNA damage . Although Asians display relative protection from basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, incidence rates of these non melanoma skin cancers have been increasing over 3 to 8 percent annually in the past three decades . Features of different types of skin cancers are listed in .
Does Skin Cancer Affect People With Skin Of Color
People of all skin tones can develop skin cancer. If you are a person of color, you may be less likely to get skin cancer because you have more of the brown pigment, melanin, in your skin.
Although less prevalent than in nonwhite people, when skin cancer does develop in people of color, its often found late and has a worse prognosis. If youre Hispanic, the incidence of melanoma has risen by 20% in the past two decades. If youre Black and develop melanoma, your five-year survival rate is 25% lower than it is for white people . Part of the reason may be that it develops in less typical, less sun-exposed areas and its often in late-stage when diagnosed.
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Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are by far the most common skin cancers, and actually are more common than any other form of cancer. Because they rarely spread to other parts of the body, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are usually less concerning and are treated differently from melanoma. These cancers are discussed in Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer.
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:
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If youve been diagnosed with skin cancer or are concerned about a lesion that may be cancerous, contact U.S. Dermatology Partners to schedule an appointment right away. You can complete our online scheduling request any time, and one of our team members will be in touch to finalize your appointment details. We care deeply about you and the health of your skin!
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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.
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Which Is The Worst Kind Of Skin Cancer
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and the least dangerous skin cancer. If it isnt removed, it will be disfiguring, but it is not likely to metastasise .
- Squamous cell carcinoma is easily treated if it is found early enough but can be fatal if left untreated. Melanoma is the least common but the most deadly form of cancer.
- Melanoma does metastasise and spread to other organs, where it can grow rapidly and affect the ability of that organ to function properly. There is no effective treatment for melanoma that has metastasised to distant organs. It is generally incurable.
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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What Is Merkel Cell Carcinoma
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare skin cancer. Cancer records show that doctors diagnosed about 2,000 MCCs in the United States during 2018.1
While MCC is rare, the cancer records also indicate that more people are developing this skin cancer than ever before. Between 2000-2013, the number of MCCs that doctors diagnosed increased by 95%.2 This increase is expected to continue.
Dermatologists believe that more Americans are developing MCC than ever before because:
A growing number of people in the United States are now 65 years of age or older, and this number is expected to rise.
Many people who are 65 or older seldom protected their skin from the sun.
Research shows that nearly everyone who develops MCC is 50 years of age or older. Most of them also have fair skin and seldom protected their skin from the sun.
More Americans are developing Merkel cell carcinoma
You are more likely to develop this skin cancer if you are over 50, have fair skin, and seldom protected your skin from the sun with sunscreen, shade, or sun-protective clothing.
Because MCC is rare and can be aggressive, anyone who is diagnosed with this skin cancer should be under the care of a team of medical doctors that has experience treating it. This team may include a board-certified dermatologist and doctors who treat cancer, such as a surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and surgical oncologist.
Research indicates that when doctors have experience treating MCC, patients are more likely to:
What Are Some Of The Lesser
Some of the less common skin cancers include the following:
Kaposi sarcoma is a rare cancer most commonly seen in people who have weakened immune systems, those who have human immunodeficiency virus /AIDS and people who are taking immunosuppressant medications who have undergone organ or bone marrow transplant.
Signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma are:
- Blue, black, pink, red or purple flat or bumpy blotches or patches on your arms, legs and face. Lesions might also appear in your mouth, nose and throat.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer that begins at the base of the epidermis, the top layer of your skin. This cancer starts in Merkel cells, which share of the features of nerve cells and hormone-making cells and are very close to the nerve ending in your skin. Merkel cell cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body than squamous or basal cell skin cancer.
Signs and symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma are:
- A small reddish or purplish bump or lump on sun-exposed areas of skin.
- Lumps are fast-growing and sometimes open up as ulcers or sores.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma
Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that usually appears on your eyelid. This cancer tends to develop around your eyes because theres a large number of sebaceous glands in that area.
Signs and symptoms of sebaceous gland carcinoma are:
- A painless, round, firm, bump or lump on or slightly inside your upper or lower eyelid.
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Skin Cancer Types: Squamous Cell Carcinoma Overview
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin
What is squamous cell carcinoma of the skin?A common type of skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer can develop from a pre-cancerous skin growth called an actinic keratosis .
Is it contagious? No
Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented
Skin cancer is almost entirely preventable. Making a part of your life, avoiding sunburn, and checking your skin regularly will help prevent further damage to your skin.
Protect your skin from UV radiation and help prevent skin cancer by:
- slipping on sun-protective clothing: cover your shoulders, neck, arms, legs and body.
- slopping on sunscreen thats rated SPF 30+ or higher, broad-spectrum and water resistant.
- slapping on a hat that shades your face, neck and ears.
- seeking shade under trees, umbrellas and buildings from direct sunlight and reflective surfaces.
- sliding on sunglasses that wrap around your face to protect your eyes and surrounding skin.
- staying away from sun lamps, solariums or sunbeds, which emit dangerous levels of UV radiation.
UV radiation from the sun varies depending on time of day, season, where you live and cloud coverage. Protect your skin whenever UV Index levels are above 3. Use Cancer Council Australias free SunSmart app to check the UV Index for your area any time.
Most Australians will get enough vitamin D even with sun protection at UV level 3 or above. Babies and children should be protected from the sun, since they are particularly vulnerable to UV radiation harm.
While using fake tanning cream isnt harmful to your skin, it offers no protection from UV radiation. You still need to protect yourself from the sun.
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When Should I See My Doctor
Its important to check your own skin regularly to find any new or changing spots.
See your doctor or dermatologist straight away if you notice any changes to your skin, such as:
- an ‘ugly duckling’ a spot that looks or feels different to any others
- a spot that changes size, shape, colour or texture over time
- a sore that doesnt go away after a few weeks
- a sore that itches or bleeds
See the ‘ABCDE’ of skin cancer, above.
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.
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Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, youre at increased risk if you:
- Spend a considerable amount of time working or playing in the sun.
- Get easily sunburned have a history of sunburns.
- Live in a sunny or high-altitude climate.
- Tan or use tanning beds.
- Have light-colored eyes, blond or red hair and fair or freckled skin.
- Have many moles or irregular-shaped moles.
- Have actinic keratosis .
- Have a family history of skin cancer.
- Have had an organ transplant.
- Take medications that suppress or weaken your immune system.
- Have been exposed to ultraviolet light therapy for treating skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
The Four Main Types Of Cutaneous Melanoma
Cutaneous melanoma is the most common of these categories, and the four main types of cutaneous melanoma include:
All types of melanoma require immediate attention, as they are more successfully treated when caught in their early stages. If you suspect you may have a form of skin cancer, call or complete our new patient registration form online. No referral is necessary to meet with the multispecialty team of oncologists who specialize in skin cancer.
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What Happens If Melanoma Is Left Untreated
Even though this form of skin cancer impacts a relatively low percentage of patients, melanoma skin cancers make up the majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma lesions often look like moles, freckles, or sunspots, and they may even develop within an existing mark on your body. Unlike other forms of skin cancer that are slow to progress and unlikely to spread to other areas, melanoma advances quickly and can form or spread anywhere on the body. In order to diagnose melanoma in the earliest stages, patients need to remember the ABCDEFs of melanoma, as discussed above.
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Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Survival Rates
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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