Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancer and every year there is an increase in the number of people who develop this. Skin cancers are generally curable if caught early. However, people who have had skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing a new skin cancer, which is why regular self-examination is important and early contact with the doctor advisable.
The vast majority of skin cancers are one of three different types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common form of skin cancer and is normally caused when a person is overexposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunshine which leads to the impairment of the skin’s natural repair system, resulting in sun damaged skin and basal cell carcinoma. These tend to be slow-growing tumours.
Despite the varied appearances of this type of cancer, they often bleed and crust. Eighty-five percent of basal cell carcinomas occur on the face and neck since these are areas that are most exposed to the sun.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This tumour can develop anywhere and the mechanisms are similar to those found in basal cell carcinoma. They most frequently appear on the scalp, face, ears and backs of hands. Squamous cell carcinoma tends to develop among fair-skinned, middle-aged and elderly people who have a history of sun exposure. In some cases, they evolve from actinic keratoses which are dry scaly lesions that can be flesh-coloured or reddish-brown. Actinic keratoses are considered to be pre-cancerous.
This is the least common type of skin cancer but it is by far the most aggressive. It is the second most common form of cancer among young adults aged 15 to 34. Melanoma often first presents as a dark brown or black spot on the skin. Melanoma can spread to internal organs and the lymph system, which can be very serious. Early detection is critical for curing this skin cancer.
Melanoma looks like a mole and may arise from a pre-existing mole. This is why it is important for people to examine their skin regularly, in order to detect any potential skin cancer early, when it is treatable. Melanoma is often caused by overexposure to the sun beginning in childhood. This cancer may also run in families.
If any of these conditions occur, please make an appointment to see us right away. The doctor may do a biopsy of the lesion to determine if it is cancerous or not, and these results will be fully discussed with you.
Prevention is always the best plan of attack and with skin cancers being attributable to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, the message is simple: stay out of direct sunlight if possible and if not, use the appropriate protection with sun blocks, appropriate clothing, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses.