Skin Cancer, Causes, Signs & Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Overview

Skin cancer cases are rising and the mortality rate is going up steadily. Skin is one of the largest organs of our body that is responsible for vital functions like controlling body temperature, storing water, fat and vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight is responsible for the development of both types of skin cancer, viz.,melanoma and nonmelanoma. Melanoma is a skin cancer of melanocytes. Nonmelanoma cancer further has got two subtypes based on the cells that it affects. Skin cancer formed in squamous cells is called squamous cell carcinoma. Whenever there is skin cancer of the neuroendocrine cells, it is termed as neuroendocrine carcinoma. Any individual may be affected by it, and in extreme cases may lead to death as well.

Causes

The most common cause is due to ultraviolet radiation. This ultraviolet light is one of the vital factors responsible for damaging your DNA. Recreational tanning, solariums, fake tan lotions, etc., damage your skin leading to skin cancer. Exposure to chemicals like arsenic can cause squamous cell carcinoma. The other factors include, tobacco smoking, high level of exposure to x-rays, HPV infections, genetic disorders, people having greater number of moles, people with fair skin, blond hair, etc., are at a higher risk.

Signs and Symptoms

The malignant melanomas generally appear as brown or black lesions. Self examination is crucial for determining this cancer. Here are the ways to do it:

Basal Cell Carcinoma: Tumor contains blood vessels, or there is a crusted depression with frequent bleeding.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Scaly red and well defined, may be ulcerative and bleedy and forms mass

Melanoma: Appears in the form of brownish spots, dark speckles. The mole size, color and shape changes.

Follow the ABCD guideline. A refers to asymmetry that means one side is entirely different from the other side of the lesion. B states that border or margins may be irregular. C denotes the color of melanoma, .i.e., may be brown, black, tan, red, blue or white. D is the diameter of the cancerous lesion.

Diagnosis

If you come across any of the above signs or symptoms, visit a dermatologist right away. Melanoma can be diagnosed by doing biopsy. A physical exam alongwith sentinel lymph node biopsy may be done to get more information as to where the melanoma has spread. CT scan, MRI, PET scan are necessary to study whether it has spread and affected the other body parts.

Treatment

Treatment will vary depending on whether it is primary or of recurring nature, its location, type, etc. Mohs surgery, excision, topical chemotherapy, external beam radiotherapy, cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy, curettage, electrodesiccation, etc. ,are the some of the most extensively used ways to treat skin cancer.

Prevention

The only way out is to limit sun exposure. Alternatively, ensure that you use sunscreen with SPF 15. If there is a possibility of sun exposure for long hours, make sure you use caps, hats and wear long sleeved clothes. Tanning booths should be avoided completely.

Skin cancer cases are expected to double by the next year. Therefore, it is vital that you stay updated with latest information on the same and take all the necessary steps to prevent it.