The skin is the largest organ in the body. Like other organs, the skin is susceptible to tumors as well. Skin tumors are abnormal growths on the skin. Skin tumors can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). There are different types of benign and malignant skin tumors. There is not one specific cause of skin tumors, but genetics has been discovered to play a part. Some benign tumors are unavoidable, but there are a few factors that can prevent malignant tumors.
Benign Skin Tumors
You could have a benign skin tumor and not even know it. There are three types of benign skin tumors. One type of benign tumor is what we call a wart. Warts are tumors that result from a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus. Warts are fleshy bumps most often found on the hands and feet. There are several different types of warts. Warts tend to disappear on their own, but they can also be removed. Warts have a tendency to return. If you have a wart, you may be able to cure with over the counter drugs such as freezing kits and salicylic acid preparations.
The next type of benign tumor is called Seborrheic keratoses. It sounds like a really serious disease, but it is a painless growth characterized by discoloration. Seborrheic keratoses show black, brown, or tan. They are typically found on the face, back, shoulders, or chest. They have a waxy and scaly appearance. Seborrheic keratoses may show up as one growth or multiple growths together. These tumors look cancerous but are not. They also do not require any treatment. Removal of the tumors is done if they become irritated or just for cosmetic reasons.
The last benign tumor is one that you will find on just about everybody. These tumors are called Nevi. Nevi are growths like moles and birthmarks. They too are completely harmless. Birthmarks are found at birth, and they can be anywhere on the body. Moles usually develop during adulthood. Moles can grow on any part of the body. They may be removed for cosmetic purposes but in most cases does not require treatment. Those with multiple nevi are at a higher risk of skin cancer. Moles can grow as a result of sun exposure and should be monitored. If you notice changes in your moles, be sure to see a dermatologist.
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Malignant Skin Tumors
There are three types of malignant skin tumors. They are categorized based on the origin of the cell type.The outer layer of skin is known as the epidermis. The epidermis is made of two layers: basal cell and squamous cells. Those who are regularly exposed to UV light are at a higher risk of skin cancer. Other factors include skin color. Those with lighter skin are also more susceptible to skin cancer. The more melanin you have, the more you can withstand sun exposure. This does not mean those with darker skin should not avoid UV light or not use sunscreen. Everyone should use sunscreen and do what they have to do to protect their skin from UV damage.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is one malignant tumor. The tumor grows from the basal cells. They form from the outer layer of the skin and create tumors that appear to be lesions on the skin. It is one of the most treatable forms of cancer because it rarely spreads. It is a very slow growing cancer. Unfortunately, BCC is one of the most common cancers in the United States. As the years go on, more and more cases of BCC are being diagnosed. People are starting to tan more, and a lot of people are not using sunscreen. To see a decrease in BCC better care has to be taken and tanning beds need to be avoided.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an abnormal growth of the squamous cells. The squamous cells are also in the outer layer of skin, but it is found below the basal cells. Squamous cell carcinoma is also a slow growing cancer. They look like red scaly patches. There are a lot fewer cases of SCC than BCC. Squamous cell carcinoma can metastasize if not treated. SCC is treatable, but if it begins to spread, it can be deadly. SCC is typically a result of intense UV exposure. Squamous cell carcinoma may start off as a red scaly growth, but if it is left untreated, it can disfigure whatever part of the body it originated.
Melanoma is the most aggressive form of a skin tumor. Melanomas are a result of DNA mutations in the cells. These mutated cells grow very quickly. They originate from the melanocytes in the basal cells. These are the cells that produce melanin and creates skin color. The growth typically looks like a mole. It is so important to monitor your moles because melanoma commonly grows in moles as well. UV light is a precursor for melanoma, but constant sunburn is the biggest cause. If caught early, melanoma is curable. Many people do not catch it in time. Melanoma is not the most common form of cancer, but it kills more people yearly than any other type of cancer.
Skin tumors are extremely common, especially if you are looking at benign tumors. You may have never thought you were carrying a tumor, but most of us are. Most moles and birthmarks are not harmful, but they should be monitored. Pay attention to new growths and monitor color changes in your skin. Just being conscious of your body may save your life. If you notice changes, see a dermatologist. Early diagnosis makes for a great prognosis. Stay away from tanning beds and if you are going to be in the sun, wear sunscreen. Whether you have lighter or darker skin does not matter. Take care of the skin you’re in and it will take care of you.