Skin Cancer occurs when normal cells begin to grow and multiply abnormally to form a tumor, usually appearing as a lesion. A lesion is cancerous only if it contains malignant cells. These cells invade the neighboring tissue and organs through the bloodstream or lymphatic system and take necessary oxygen and nutrients from the normal cells. There are three types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and Melanoma. A majority of skin cancers are BCCs or SCCs and are unlikely to spread, though they are still malignant. Malignant Melanoma is an aggressive skin cancer that is likely to spread, making it the most dangerous of the three.
Skin Cancer Symptoms
Knowing the symptoms of skin cancer can be helpful in determining and preventing the spread of the disease.
- With Basal Call Carcinoma, a raised, smooth bump will appear on the sun-exposed skin of the head, neck, or shoulders. A central depression will usually appear that will bleed and crust.
- In the case of Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a well-defined, scaled, red patch of thickened skin will appear and will also most likely bleed.
- Melanoma appears as brown to black pigmented lesions that will usually change in shape, color, and size. A cancerous lesion is usually larger than 600mm in diameter.
Skin Cancer Causes
Exposure to UV rays, usually from the sun, is the most common and frequent cause of skin cancer, but a variety of factors can increase the risk of its development.
- Exposure to large amounts of sunlight
- Tanning beds
- Immunosuppression, often caused by a disease or the effects or certain medications, including those prescribed to prevent organ transplant rejectionsExposure to an unusually high number of X-rays
- Exposure chemicals, such as arsenic and hydrocarbons found in tar, oils, and soot
Skin Cancer Diagnosis
When a lesion is found a dermatologist should be contacted immediately so that a biopsy can be performed. A biopsy is the removal of a small portion of the affected are so that the skin can be more closely examined under a microscope. If the lesion is determined to be malignant additional tests such as blood testing and X-rays will most likely be performed. These tests will help determine if the malignant cells have spread to other parts of the body and see exactly which areas of the body have been affected by the malignant cells.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Depending on which type of skin cancer is diagnosed, different treatment options are recommended.
- In the cases of Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, surgical removal of the lesion will most likely be performed and is usually an adequate treatment, as these types of skin cancer do not tend to spread like Melanoma does.
- In the case of Melanoma, a more serious treatment path will likely be needed. This can include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. If diagnosed with melanoma, one would benefit from the treatment of a dermatologist, a cancer surgeon, and a medical oncologist to fully address the situation.