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Skin Cancer – Causes and Treatment

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of most common forms of cancer found in human beings. The three different types of skin cancers are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and melanoma. These three types of skin cancers are named after the type of skin cells where the cancer occurs. Usually skin cancer develops on the outermost layers of the skin which makes most forms of skin cancer detectable in their early stages. Also, though skin cancer can cause disfiguration, it is very rare that people die due to skin cancer, except in case of melanoma. Melanoma is not a very common type of skin cancer but it is the most serious and fatal type of skin cancer and it is mostly caused due to over exposure to sun for long periods. The most common type of skin cancer is the basal cell skin cancer. Together both the BCC and SCC are known as nonmelanoma skin cancer.

Anatomy of the human skin

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of skin cancer vary depending on the type of skin cancer that an individual is suffering from. The symptoms often include disfiguration of the skin, changes in the skin that are permanent, ulcering in the skin, and changes in existing moles on the skin.

In the case of Basal cell carcinoma the symptoms are a smooth, pearly and raised bump on the skin that is exposed to the sun on the patient’s neck, head and shoulders. At times blood vessels can also be seen within these tumors. Usually the tumor is mistaken for sore. Though this type of skin cancer is the most common amongst individuals it is the least harmful and it can be treated with proper treatment and medication.

In case of Squamouns cell carcinoma, a thickened, scaling and red patch on the areas of the skin exposed to the sun are the main symptoms. In most cases bleeding as well as ulceration also takes place and at times hard and firm dome shaped nodules are also found on the infected skin. This is the second most common type of skin cancer and if not treated it develops into a large unsightly mass.

Melanoma is the third and a rare form of skin cancer but the most dangerous type too. Most of the times melanomas are usually brown or black lesions on the skin, but at times they can also be fleshy, red or pink in color. Changes in the shape, size and color of a mole is one of the most common symptoms of melanoma. Appearance of a new mole, itching, pain, bleeding or ulceration is also other symptoms of this type of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Causes

There are a number of potential skin cancer causes and one of the main skin cancer causes is over exposure to sunlight. When the skin is exposed to sunlight the UV radiation might cause skin cancer by either directly damaging the DNA or by indirectly doing so. Both UVA and UVB are known to cause DNA damage. Thus people living in areas that receive high UV radiation are more prone to developing skin cancer. Exposure to UV radiation in tanning booths also could cause skin cancer. In most of the cases, skin cancer appears only after the age of 50, but the damaging effects could begin much earlier, thus it is most important that adequate protection must be taken right from childhood. Another one of the most common skin cancer causes is smoking and consuming tobacco products, which doubles the risk of skin cancer. Genetic predispositions, chronic non healing wounds as well as Human papilloma virus are also associated with skin cancer. Other skin cancer causes are vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as arsenic poisoning.

Skin Cancer Prevention

Prevention is better than cure and though it is not completely possible to prevent skin cancer, one can reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. Given below are some tips

  1. Avoiding tobacco products
  2. Reducing exposure to UV rays
  3. Using protective clothing when you go outdoors
  4. Using sunscreens that has SPF 30 and also offers protection against long waves of UV light.

Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin cancer is diagnosed by a medical practitioner by performing a biopsy. Depending on the type of skin cancer, the type of diagnosis also varies. Skin cancer treatment varies depending on the type of skin cancer affecting the patient. Some of the skin cancer treatment method used to treat non melanoma and melanoma skin cancer involves curettage and desiccation, surgical excision, radiation therapy, cryosurgery, Mohs micrographic surgery and medical therapy using creams.

Basal cell carcinoma

Source: Wikimedia Commons

squamous cell carcinoma

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Patient: Melanoma

Source: Wikimedia

Curettage and desiccation involves scooping out the affected cells and applying electrical current to kill any remaining cancer cells. This skin cancer treatment is best suited when the cancer affects non crucial areas. Surgical incision involves cutting out the tumors and stitching up the skin. In radiation therapy areas that are difficult to treat using other skin cancer treatment methods are treated. Cryosurgery involves freezing the cancer cells and killing them. A number of medicinal creams that attacks the cancer cells as well as stimulates the immune system to fight off these cancerous cells can also be used.

Malignant melanoma requires an aggressive skin cancer treatment which is much more than just surgical removal. For an effective skin cancer treatment different treatment methods are often combined together in case of malignant melanoma, which includes radiation therapy, adjuvant therapy, immunotherapy, lentigo maligna treatment, cell and targeted therapies, surgery, as well as chemotherapy. While surgery may be successful in limiting the skin cancer, at times further surgery is also essential in order to prevent recurrence of the skin cancer. In case of high risk melanoma, adjuvant treatment is the best. Adjuvant treatment is an additional skin cancer treatment that is usually given after surgery. However this treatment is not without side effects. Radiation therapy is also used after surgical treatment in order to reduce the rate of recurrence of skin cancer in the patient. Studies and research to develop newer and better treatments to treat melanoma are ongoing.

Malignant melanoma requires an aggressive skin cancer treatment which is much more than just surgical removal. For an effective skin cancer treatment different treatment methods are often combined together in case of malignant melanoma, which includes radiation therapy, adjuvant therapy, immunotherapy, lentigo maligna treatment, cell and targeted therapies, surgery, as well as chemotherapy. While surgery may be successful in limiting the skin cancer, at times further surgery is also essential in order to prevent recurrence of the skin cancer. In case of high risk melanoma, adjuvant treatment is the best. Adjuvant treatment is an additional skin cancer treatment that is usually given after surgery. However this treatment is not without side effects. Radiation therapy is also used after surgical treatment in order to reduce the rate of recurrence of skin cancer in the patient. Studies and research to develop newer and better treatments to treat melanoma are ongoing.


Posted by in Cancer, Skin Cancer

One Response to “Skin Cancer – Causes and Treatment”

  1. dennis says:

    good article … pix dont show size or a scale …

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