Cancer can affect any part of the body with skin cancer diagnosis’ leading the way. It is one of the most common of all cancer types. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells divide and multiply without control forming solid masses or tumors in or around vital organs of the body. With regards to skin cancer, it can affect individuals from all walks of life, although it tends to occur most in those prone to sun-burns and light skin.
Skin cancer varies by type and it is estimated that one in every seven Americans will be diagnosed each year. However, the most common of those skin cancer types are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma. Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are classified together as keratinocyte carcinoma or nonmelanoma skin cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal Cell Carcinoma is considered a non-melanoma variety of skin cancer which is less likely to spread and is relatively easy to treat with minor surgery and minimal radiation therapy. Known for being the first most common type of cancer, it accounts for about 90% of all diagnosed skin cancer cases. Basal Cell Carcinoma is found in the outer skin layers and is seen typically on the most sun-exposed parts of the body i.e. the head, neck, and ears. Additionally, BCC is characterized into sub-classifications to assist in identification.
Visually, this type of skin cancer presents with easily detectable clues. Basal cell cancer commonly resembles a red, shiny textured skin lesion and have been known to sometimes bleed. They are often mistaken for a cut that won’t heal. This disease is seen most in those with fair hair and eyes, middle-aged adults, and in those who spend a great deal of time in the sun. Prevention advice includes wearing sunscreen, avoiding time in the sun, avoiding tanning beds, and wearing UV protective eye-wear and clothing.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of melanoma that typically is seen in areas directly exposed to the sun such as the scalp, ears, or lips. Also, classified as a non-melanoma type of skin cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma has an appearance on the skin that looks like an open sore that may be scaly or crusty. This skin type of skin cancer is slow growing and can manifest at first as a firm, red bump or cyst.
Causes of squamous cell carcinoma are essentially errors within the DNA strand on the outer layers of the skin. These errors cause the cells to develop an overgrowth of cancerous squamous cells. Warning signs are the diagnosis of precancerous lesions called actinic keratosis or solar keratosis. Those at risk for squamous cell carcinoma are similar to basal cell carcinoma as exposure to sunlight, both UVA and UVB increase the overall risk. Other risk factors include HPV infections, tobacco use, radiation exposure, and atypical moles.
Medical experts confer that this form of skin cancer is of the most threatening and quickly to spread. Upon inspection, malignant melanoma may resemble a mole. There is an early identification warning guide set in a place referred to as the ABCDEF rule set forth by the American Academy of Dermatology. The guide is easily downloadable and provides instructions for self-examination.
Causes of malignant melanoma are thought to be a combination of factors such as genetics, weakened immune systems, or environmental circumstances; however, the leading agreed upon cause is UV light exposure. Protecting yourself against the harmful UV rays of the sun and tanning beds is one of your best preventative actions you can take. What we know about malignant melanoma is that the risk increases as you age and that it seems to affect people of lighter complexions more so than that of darker complexions. Recent Melanoma research statistics indicate that malignant melanoma can be life threatening and approximately 10,000 people die annually from the disease. There are some effective treatments for melanoma and it helps significantly if the disease is caught early.
New research and information on skin cancer and melanoma are always being updated and made available to the public. While exciting new cancer treatments are currently in practice and even more revolutionary treatments on the horizon, prevention is still the best thing an individual can do to their part. Partnering with trusted medical professionals is also a key component so that you are a part of a routine monitoring schedule for both your overall health and skin. For more information on skin cancer visit www.skincancer.org for additional details on the above-mentioned skin cancer types and treatments.