Most of us love to spend time soaking in the sun at some point in our lives. Because tanned skin is currently the fashion, people actually go out of their way to make sure that they expose their skin to ultraviolet rays for long periods of time. They feel great when their skin has the natural golden brown tint that only this exposure can produce.
However, what may look beautiful and healthy today could quite possibly be much less than beautiful or healthy looking down the road. We have all heard the warnings about spending too much time in the sun. We know that excessive sun exposure can be bad and lead to skin cancer.
Preventing skin cancer, or at least greatly reducing the likelihood of getting it, is simple. It’s a matter of covering or protecting the skin from the sun and avoiding sun exposure during the hours that the sun is strongest. However, not everybody does this, and there is also a genetic predisposition in some people to get skin cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC originates on the top layer of skin cells, the squamous cells, which make up most of the epidermis. As with all types of skin cancer, sun exposure is the number one risk factor Therefore, the most common place for it to appear is on areas most commonly exposed to sun, the head, neck, ears, arms and hands.
There is a risk of metastasis with this type of cancer. It often spreads to the lymph nodes, presenting a significant problem that is much harder to treat than cancer of the skin. Early detection can help to prevent this spreading of the cancerous cells.
Basal-Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is also very common and over two thirds of the cases present on sun-exposed areas. Unlike squamous-cell carcinoma, BCC rarely metastasizes or causes death, but it is the most common skin cancer and can cause severe damage to tissue.
The appearance of BCC is usually a pearly or waxy looking shiny nodule. It is firm to the touch and white, pink, red or blood tinged. However, BCC also sometimes presents as a sort of rash that looks like eczema. Some types appear as a scar that is white, or lighter skin color.
Melanoma is by far the least common of these 3 types of skin cancer, but it is a serious one. It only accounts for about 5% of all cases of skin cancer but it is the most dangerous of all and causes more deaths than all the others put together.
Melanoma usually looks most like a mole. In fact it often begins where a mole has been and spreads. It can be distinguished from a healthy mole by the fact that it has an uneven (not rounded) border and an uneven skin tone. It can spread quickly and through time can spread through the blood vessels and to other organs.
The most important factor in treatment is early diagnosis. The sooner skin cancer is discovered, the sooner it can be removed without getting deep or spreading. It is important to look your skin over well and pay attention to any new growth or changes in existing moles or spots.
Yearly skin cancer screenings are recommended to help in early diagnosis. A dermatologist will simply look your skin over and determine if any spots or rashes could be cancerous. It is simple and quick. From there, having a biopsy taken may be recommended if there is a site the appears to be cancerous.
A small part of the affected skin is removed and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist who will determine if there is cancer present. Your doctor will them discuss what type of treatment or removal is required.
The most common treatment is removal by surgery. Mohs surgery is a special method that leaves the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor intact while removing the diseased parts. There are also other types of excision surgery as well as drugs and laser treatments that may be recommended.
Treating your skin with care and avoiding sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin cancer. Keep an eye on your skin and get regular screenings to ensure that you find any problem spots before they truly become a problem.Read More