Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Nearly 1 million new diagnoses of skin cancer are made yearly. Just like any other cancer, skin cancer forms from abnormal cell transformation and growth. Tumor cells that can be either malignant or benign. A skin cancer diagnosis refers to malignant cells. There is not just one type of skin cancer but three. Skin cancers are categorized as either non-melanomas (carcinomas) or melanomas. Skin cancer is not something that should be overlooked. Being educated about the signs of melanomas and carcinomas can save your life. If you know what you are looking for, you will be able to act fast and get the problem resolved before it spreads.
Types of Skin Cancer
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the least severe form of skin cancer. It is considered a non-melanoma skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is typically brought on by sun exposure. Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of the body but it can move to bone or tissue. BCC can be cured, especially if it is caught early. It forms as a small shiny bump and can be mistaken for a pimple. These cells grow slowly and take years to become noticeable. Excessive sun or UV ray exposure from tanning beds make these cells grow at a faster rate and become more noticeable.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is also considered a non-melanoma skin cancer. It too is brought on by UV rays and sun exposure, but it happens in areas where there is damage from the UV rays. It is slow growing cancer like BCC, but it spreads more readily. It can spread to nearby tissues and bones making it more of a concern than BCC. It can even get into lymph nodes. When caught early, SCC can be cured. SCC shows up as a dome-shaped bump or scaly skin. It may bleed if scratched and can be very itchy.
- Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer. Melanomas are aggressive and hard to treat. They can start in birthmarks or moles. They most often begin with the arms or legs, back or chest. Some unusual places it can start is in the fingernail, vaginal wall, or mucous lining of the mouth. Melanoma spreads quickly and is treatable if diagnosed in its early stages. It is life-threatening because it can spread to other parts of the body even organs. The spread of melanoma to other organs makes it tough to treat and makes the prognosis not very good.
Factors For Carcinomas and Melanomas
The factors associated with skin cancer make some people more susceptible than others. These factors include:
- Excessive Sun Exposure
- Hair Color- Red/Blonde Hair
- HIV and Aids
- Radiation Exposure
- Skin Color – Fair Skinned
- Tanning Beds
Skin cancer is not limited to just these factors. Just because you have fair skin, blond hair, and are male also does not mean you will for sure have skin cancer.; it only makes you more prone. Those who are darker skinned are rarely diagnosed with skin cancer. Age plays a factor, especially as your skin changes. Getting older does not guarantee a skin cancer diagnosis. Young people are affected as well. Tanning is a trend, and people are starting to do it earlier in life. The habit of UV ray exposure can lead to early skin cancer.
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How Skin Cancer is Diagnosed
You can diagnose skin cancer first. You know your body better than anyone. If you have moles or birthmarks, be careful to pay attention to them. Take notice of changes in your skin. A physician should take a look at bumps that continue to grow and do not go away. If your skin becomes red and scaly, you may also want to get it checked. Dermatologists make the diagnosis. They will do a thorough exam and get a detailed history. If the dermatologist believes the bump could be cancer, they will take a biopsy of it to confirm.
Treating Skin Cancer
Treatment for skin cancer varies depending on the type of cancer diagnosis. In the case of Basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, the dermatologist will cut the cancerous cells out along with the skin around it. New skin will grow back, and you will be able to live an ordinary life. Cryosurgery is another treatment for BCC and SCC. Cryosurgery is the freezing of the cancerous spot with liquid nitrogen. Treatment for melanomas is a bit more invasive. If caught early, melanomas too can be cut out or frozen. Typically surgery is the best form of treatment. If cancer has spread, the doctor may decide to remove those spots as well. Chemotherapy is a common form of therapy for any cancer even skin cancer. With skin cancer, chemotherapy can be given in a topical treatment. The cream is placed directly on the cancerous area and will kill it. Again if cancer has already spread, then chemotherapy will be given to kill cancer in all the areas it has spread.
Skin cancer is very common, and in most cases, it is not severe. Knowing the facts of cancer will allow you to diagnose it early. Early diagnosis makes for a better prognosis. Knowing the factors of skin cancer can keep you aware. Some preventative steps you can take to protect your skin is to use sunscreen whenever you are going outside. Even cloud coverage does not totally protect you from UV rays. Tanning beds can be very dangerous and should also be avoided. It may be best to find other ways of tanning like lotions, and spray tan to avoid the harmful UV rays. Be in tune with your body and make sure you are aware of the changes that are happening.