The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It plays an important role in protecting your body. It prevents harmful substances from entering and also prevents the loss of nutrients. As the skin is an external organ, it can be affected by many environmental factors like sun rays. So, it is important to keep your skin as healthy as you can.
Skin cancer is a very common type of cancer. It is an abnormal growth of cells developed when the skin is exposed to harmful sun rays. Depending on the involvement of the cells the skin cancer is categorized into three types. They are:
It is a type of cancer developed from melanocytes (cells that make the brown pigment which gives color to the skin). The appearance of benign moles on the chest in men and legs in women are the primary symptoms of melanomas. If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. The signs and symptoms are:
- Large brown spot with dark speckles
- Mole that changes in color and size
- Dark lesion on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes
- Small lesion with an irregular border and portion that appear red, white, blue or blue-black
Basal and squamous cell skin carcinomas are other forms of skin cancer. They are found on areas like the neck, head, and the other body parts that are exposed to harmful sun rays. If left untreated, they grow larger and spread to the other parts of the body. Basal cell carcinoma appears as a:
- Pearly or waxy bump
- Flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
The squamous cell carcinoma appears as a:
- Film, red nodule
- Flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
TREATMENT FOR SKIN CANCER
Treatment for skin cancer varies depending on the type, size, aggressiveness, and location of the cancer.
Surgery is the main treatment for skin cancer. The basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be treated with the correct surgery.The affected area is removed completely under local anesthesia.
It can be used to treat basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers. This therapy is preferred if
- The cancer covers a wide area
- The affected area is difficult to operate
- You have a contraindication for surgery
In some situations, radiotherapy is used along with surgery. It is used to treat cancer that has spread to lymph nodes. It is also used to treat the recurrence of cancers after the surgery.
In some situations, chemotherapy tablets or injections are used for skin cancer. Often they are used to treat actinic keratosis and cancers on the top layer of the skin. It is used to relieve the symptoms in cancers that cannot be cured.
Imiquimod cream (Aldara) is used to treat cancer. It is a new type of treatment and is used to treat actinic keratosis and basal cell carcinoma in the top layer of the skin. It uses the immune system to attack cancer. It stimulates the cells to produce more chemicals such as interferon to destroy the cancer cells.
It is a new type of treatment. It uses the drug that makes the skin cells sensitive to light. The affected area is exposed to a special type of light, and cancer cells are destroyed. It is used to treat basal cell skin cancers, Bowen’s disease, and actinic keratosis. As the light cannot penetrate deep into the skin, it is not suitable for treating the deeper basal cell cancers or squamous cell cancer.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES FOR SKIN CANCER
The best way to protect your skin from cancer is by using sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure. Following are some tips to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Avoid exposure to the sun when it is brighter: Experts suggest that it would be better to go out in shade, possibly avoiding bright light (10 AM to 4 PM).
- Apply sunscreen lotion regularly: Apply sunscreen lotion to the area which will be exposed to the sun. Sunscreen lotion may not filter the ultraviolet radiation, but it offers some protection. Use the product with SPF (sun protection factor) rating of at least 15, with coverage against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Cover your skin: Wear tight woven, dark-colored clothing that covers your arm and legs.
- Avoid tanning beds: The lighting used in the tanning beds is more harmful than the sun and may cause skin burns. So, avoid using tanning beds and do not neglect the burns caused by these beds.
- Avoid sunburns: Sunburns can increase the risk of skin cancer.
- Know your sun-sensitive medications: Many medications cause burning sensation on the skin when exposed to the sun. Consult your doctor or pharmacist and get clarified if any of your medications might make sun exposure riskier.
- Check your skin regularly: Check your skin regularly for any new growths, moles, bumps, birthmarks, or freckles. If any seek your doctor for help.
- Consult your doctor: During self-exam, if you notice any of the changes in your skin you must consult your doctor.
Here is good news for you, “skin cancer is preventable.” But, you need to follow certain precautions to avoid your skin’s exposure to harmful sun rays (UV rays). Early detection of skin cancer can be treated successfully.