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Skin Cancer: Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Skin cancer is a condition that develops when abnormal skin cells grow at an uncontrolled rate. The illness develops when DNA damage that is unrepaired occurs to the skin cells and triggers genetic defects or mutations, which then leads to skin cells multiplying at a rapid rate to form malignant tumors. The only silver lining with most skin cancers is that unlike some other cancers, this type rarely moves to other parts of the body.

Types of skin cancer include:

Basal and Squamous Cell Cancers

These types of skin cancers are the most common and found mainly on areas of the body that are exposed to sun, like an individual’s head and neck. These types of skin cancers are strongly linked to sun exposure.

Melanomas

This skin cancer arises from melanocytes, cells that create brown pigment to give skin its color. Melanocytes also form non-cancerous growths that are called nevus, but you’d probably refer to them as moles.

Melanomas can pop up anywhere on an individual’s body, but are commonly found in specific areas. The chest and back tend to be common for men, while women find them most on their legs. Melanomas also can start on the face and neck.

While melanomas are more rare than squamous and basal cell skin cancers, they are more serious; if they are not detected early on, they can spread to other areas of the body and can be difficult to treat.

Other Skin Cancers

The two above types of skins cancers are quite common; however, there are other that can develop too, and they include:

  • Skin adnexal tumors, which begin in sweat and oil glands or hair follicles
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Cutaneous (skin) lymphoma
  • Kaposi sarcoma
  • A variety of sarcomas types of skin cancers

Combined, these types of skin cancers account for not even one percent of all skin cancers.

Much like any other conditions, early detection is key when it comes to any skin cancer. Below are some signs and symptoms to look out for this illness.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of skin cancer depend on the type an individual may have. There are few symptoms around a majority of basal cell carcinomas cases, meanwhile squamous cell carcinomas might cause pain. With both of these skin cancer types, a sore appears that can ooze, bleed, crust over, and not heal. They start off as bump on the skin after a small trauma, and they may bleed. Both skin cancer types might see raised edges around the sore, with a central ulceration.

Basal cell carcinomas signs and symptoms include:

  • A shiny pearly, pink, or red, translucent bump.
  • Skin growths or lesions that are pink, with raised borders crusted in the center of the growth.
  • A raised red-like skin patch that may itch or crust; however, is not painful.
  • A waxy, yellow, or white area with a border that is poorly defined and might look like a scar.

Meanwhile, signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinomas include:

  • Red and scaly patches that are persistent, do have regular borders, and that could bleed easily.
  • An open sore that will not go away.
  • A growth with a rough surface, which is raised and has an indent in the center.
  • A growth that may look like a wart.

Causes

Most skin cancer are due to DNA mutations that are triggered by ultraviolet (UV) light that affects cells of the epidermis. A majority of early cancers seemingly are controlled by the body’s natural immune surveillance; however, if this is compromised, it can result in the mass development of malignant cells that start to grow into tumors.

While most skin cancers are not connected to hereditary, skin cancer is more common for individuals who have poor pigment, which is an inherited condition.

Treatments

There is a plethora of treatments available to skin cancer patients, and the therapy choice is strongly linked to size and location of the tumor. Some examples include:

 

Topical medications

Creams, solutions, and gels are used to stimulate an individual’s immune system which interferes with the skin cancer. At times, some patients may experience side effects due to topical treatments that include irritation, redness, and inflammation.

Electrodessication and Curettage (EDC)

A local anesthetic is used to numb the tumor area, and a sharp instrument is used to scrape it away. This treatment is relatively inexpensive, easy, and fast; however, the scar left behind isn’t pleasant and the rate of recurrence can be up to 15 percent.

Surgical Excision

The tumor’s area is numbed with an anesthetic, and a portion of the tissue (including the tumor) is removed. This treatment gives a patient a cure rate of more than 90 percent, with a scar that is a bit come aesthetically pleasing than the above treatment; however, this option is more expensive and a bit more complicated.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

A surgeon removes the tumor, along with a small margin of tissue, which is immediately evaluated for residual microscopic tumor involvement and re-assessed. The cycle above continues until a tumor is not visible. While this is more expensive and complicated, it is the treatment used for tumors where the preservation of normal tissue is essential.

Radiation Therapy

A patient will undergo about 10 to 15 sessions where a high dose of radiation is delivered to the tumor and some surrounding skin. This treatment involves no cutting, but is expensive and the area treated cannot be tested to make sure the tumor in its entirety, is gone. Radiation scars tend to look worse over time, as well.

Cryosurgery

This is a treatment where skin cancer tissue is destroyed by freezing.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Medication and a blue light is used in this treatment to destroy cancer tissues within the skin.

Laser Surgery

This treatment destroys lesions by vaporizing the top layer of the skin.

Medications

Some skin cancer patients opt for oral medications such as sonidegib (Odomzo) and vismodegib (Erivedge).

Prevention

Individual’s who have increased exposure to UV rays also increase their risks around skin cancer. While sunlight is the main source of UVs, there are ways people can still enjoy fun in the sun, but remain protected. They are:

  • Use sunscreen while outdoors, ensure to read the label of the sunscreen before applying, and re-apply every two hours.
  • Don’t forget your lips and face when it comes to sunscreen protection.
  • Wear a hat while out in the sun to protect your scalp, and offer some shade to your face.
  • Put on sunglasses to protect your eyes while out in the sun, and the skin around them.
  • If you are by a pool or beach, put on a wrap or a t-shirt to protect your body from those UV rays.
  • Finds some shade and take a break from the sun while still outdoors.

Last, but not least, may people turn to tanning beds for that perfect-looking golden-brown tan, and feel this form of UV rays is not harmless. Still, most health organizations and skin doctors agree that tanning beds can increase that UV exposure and have been liked around enhanced chances of melanoma.

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