Skin Cancer & Melanoma Treatment
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and results from the formation and growth of abnormal skin cells. Skin cancer can affect any part of the body,, but most frequently appears on the part where the skin that ahs been exposed to the sun. There are more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the United States each year.
Causes Of Skin Cancer
Every day, skin cells die and new ones form to replace them in a process controlled by DNA. Skin cancer can form when this process does not work properly because of damage to DNA. New cells may form when they are not needed, or older cells may not die, both of which can cause a growth of tissue known as a tumor. DNA damage is often a result of the damaging ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning beds. In some cases, skin cancer affects areas of the skin that have not been exposed to the sun and genetics may have a role. Certain factors, such as fair skin, increased number of moles, a weakened immune system, heredity, and age also increase the risk of skin cancer.
Types Of Skin Cancer
There are three major types of skin cancer, and each type affects different layers of the skin. They are named for the different types of skin cells that become cancerous.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the type of skin cancer that occurs in the basal cell layer of the skin and is the most common type of skin cancer especially in people with fair skin although it can affect nearly all skin types, It commonly occurs on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, and legs. It is readily cured with complete excision and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinomais the second most prevalent type of skin cancer and occurs in the squamous cells. Areas of predilection are on sun-exposed areas as well, such as the face, arms, and legs. Although squamous cell carcinoma can be cured with excision when detected early, it can spread to other parts of the body if diagnosis is delayed. Other risk factors include smoking and tanning-booth use.
Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer and the most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma occurs in the melanocyte or pigment cells of the skin, and can form on any part of the body, regardless of past sun exposure. However, sun damage is the number-one contributing factor to having malignant melanoma. Other significant risk factors include genetics and tanning-booth use.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is often identified as a new or changed growth on the skin of the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands or legs. Although these are common areas for skin-cancer growths to form, they can occur anywhere and can manifest themselves as the following:
- Pearly or waxy bump
- Flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
- Firm, red nodule
- Crusted, flat lesion
- Large brown spot with darker speckles
- Shiny, firm bumps
- Changing mole, shape, size, or color
Diagnosis Of Skin Cancer
To diagnose skin cancer, a dermatologist takes a thorough history, reviews all symptoms, and examines the skin for any unusual growths or abnormal patches of skin. If skin cancer is suspected, a skin biopsy is performed on the growth or area of skin in question. Once the pathology results of the biopsy are reviewed, the type of cancer can be determined and a treatment plan created. Those who experience any skin changes, or have changes to existing moles or birthmarks, should see a doctor as soon as possible, because early detection is key in successfully treating skin cancer and can save lives.
Treatment For Skin Cancer
Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the tumor. Most options include the surgical removal of the entire growth and are very effective forms of treatment. Removal procedures are usually simple and straight-forward. The surgery requires only a local anesthetic in an outpatient setting. Mohs Surgery is a specialized surgical technique for removal of skin cancers on the face and other surgically challenging anatomic locations.
Although surgical excision is the most effective treatment for early skin cancer, some alternative treatment options for skin cancer include the following:
- Electrodessication and Curretage
- Laser Therapy
Prevention Of Skin Cancer
Although not every case of skin cancer can be prevented, the best way to protect against it and decrease the chances is to protect the skin from the sun. Recommendations for preventing skin cancer include the following:
- Limit sun exposure to the skin, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Always wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30-45.
- Wear a hat in the sun.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants.
- Avoid tanning beds and tanning salons.
- Stop smoking.
- Perform routine self-exams to detect early skin changes.
- Seeing a dermatologist for a full-body screening on a regular basis.