Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It usually begins with abnormal growth of cancer cells which are present on the outer layers of the skin. There are three main types of skin cancers such as, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Some of the causes of skin cancer include long term exposure to sun and ultraviolent rays, light skin, weak immune system and infection.
One of the important signs of skin cancer is persistent bump or spot in the area of the skin that may result due to the exposure to the sun rays. Skin cancer can be treated easily with topical medicines and surgeries if they are detected at an early stage. This condition can be prevented by protecting the skin from sunlight, ultraviolent rays and harmful chemicals.
Types of skin cancer:
- The most common type of skin cancers are basal cell skin cancer and squamous cell skin cancer.
- Less common type include kaposi sarcoma, markel cell carcinoma, sebaceous gland carcinoma and melanoma.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The signs and symptoms of the skin cancer are specific to the type of skin cell involved.
Basal cell skin cancer: It is usually seen on the face.
Kaposi sarcoma: Red or purple patches occur on the skin and mucous membrane.
Markel cell carcinoma: Skin becomes firm, develops shiny nodules just below the skin and hair follicles. It appears on head, neck and trunk.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma: Hard painless nodules occur on eyelids or anywhere on the body.
Squamous cell skin cancer: Skin may have a firm and red nodule. Skin lesion may be flat, scaly and with crusted surface.
Melanoma: It affects both men and women. Dark lesions may occur on neck, shoulder, lower limbs and hips. The ABCD rule helps to identify signs of melanoma.
- Asymmetry: Shape of one half does not match the other
- Border: Edges are irregular
- Color: Ranges from uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
- Diameter: Changes in size are significant (greater than 6mm)
The following are the causes of skin cancer:
- The mutations (error) occurring in DNA of any skin cell results in uncontrolled cell division and leads to skin cancer.
- The prolonged exposure to sunlight and ultraviolent rays may cause skin cancer.
- The episodes of sun burn before the age of 18 years may eventually lead to skin cancer.
- The X-rays have the potential to damage the skin which may cause skin cancer.
- Occupationally exposed chemicals may also cause skin cancer.
The following are the risk factors for skin cancer:
- Exposure to UV light from tanning beds
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) infections
- Chemical exposure (arsenic)
- Weak immune system
- Skin tone (white skin)
- Presence of moles
- Radiation therapy
- Sun light
- Sun burn
If skin cancer is left untreated, it may lead to complications such as recurrence and metastasis (spreading to other sites of the body).
Visual examination: The doctor may examine the suspicious spot for its size, shape, color, texture and bleeding or scaling. The doctor may also check for enlarged lymph nodes by touching them.
Dermatoscopy: The doctor may examine the suspicious spot with the help of a special magnifying lens.
Skin biopsy: The doctor may remove a skin sample and send it for biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure where the skin sample is placed under a microscope and examined for the presence of cancer cells. With this procedure, the type of skin cancer can be determined.
In case of merkel cell carcinoma or melanoma, further tests are done by the doctor to determine the extent of the cancer.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy: The first few lymph nodes into which the tumor drains are called as sentinel lymph nodes. They are examined for the signs of cancer by performing imaging test called as sentinel lymph node biopsy.
The skin cancer is treated after determining the type and stage of cancer.
Surgery: It is a medical procedure in which the tumor and its surrounding tissue are removed.
Curettage and electrodessication: This procedure uses curettage, which is a sharp spoon-shaped instrument useful to remove the cancer cells. After the removal of cancer cells, electric current is applied to destroy remaining cells and prevent bleeding in that particular area.
Mohs surgery: In this technique, visible tumor and surrounding edges are removed.
Freezing (cryotherapy): The cancer cells are destroyed and killed using liquid nitrogen or other freezing agents.
Laser therapy: With the help of laser light, cancer cells are destroyed. This is effective to treat cancer cellspresent on the outer layer of the skin.
Photodynamic therapy: The cancer site is treated with specific chemicals in order to make it sensitive to light. It is then exposed to light and cancer cells are killed. As this procedure is painful, the doctor may give pain killers to the patient before and after the procedure.
Radiation therapy: High energy rays are used to kill the cancer cells. Skin may turn red and sore after the procedure and the patient may also have hair fall.
Topical treatments: Topical preparations like chemotherapeutic (drugs that destroy cancer cells) lotions and creams are applied on the skin surface.
The skin cancer can be prevented by following ways:
- Examination of the body from head to toe for skin lesions
- Restriction from sun light (avoid 10 am to 3 pm)
- Selection of clothes that protects from sunlight
- Prevention of tanning beds
- Application of sunscreen lotions
- Protection from UV rays
- Cessation of smoking