Skin cancer is the most common of all the types of cancers (Skin Cancer). It is a disease where malignant, or cancerous cells can be found in some layer of the skin. The epidermis, or the top layer of the kin, has three kinds of cells: basal cells, squamous cells, and the melanocytes (Skin Cancer). The melanocytes produce melanin, which is pigment that gives the skin its colour. Sometimes clusters of melanocytes can form growths called moles. These moles can sometimes become cancerous. Skin cancer tumours are formed when these cells excessively divide. They are known as malignant tumours. The tumours are not skin cancer when they are designated as benign. The cancer cells in the malignant tumours can break away and spread throughout the body. This can occur by way of the blood stream of lymphatic system (Melanoma).
Skin cancer is categorized into three types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is, by far, the most common form of skin cancer (Skin Cancer). Luckily, it will never spread throughout the body. Basal cell skin cancer usually forms due to years and years of skin damage. Therefore, it is most often found on the sun-exposed areas of older adults. Such areas include the nose, face, back, and neck. Basal cell carcinoma is definitely curable with treatment. The second most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Men over age 55 are most likely to develop this type of the disease. Squamous cell skin cancer usually develops over time. Similar to basal cell carcinoma. This type is usually found on areas that have endured many years of sun exposure (Skin Cancer Guide). The most serious form of skin cancer is the malignant melanoma. It is the cause of most skin cancer-related deaths (Melanoma). Malignant melanoma is the most likely to spread to other parts of the body. This tendency to extend makes melanoma extremely dangerous. Found in melanocytes, this type of cancer can also develop on other parts of the body (Skin Cancer Guide). The eye is also susceptible to this cancer (Melanoma). More often then men, women have occurrences of melanoma (Skin Cancer Facts). On a man, it can usually be found on the trunk, head or neck. The arms and legs are typical areas for melanoma to be found on a woman (Introduction to Skin Cancer).
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Additionally, each form of skin cancer has distinguishing characteristics. Basal cell carcinoma could appear as a sore that grows slowly, yet does not itch or hurt. It may have a dimpled middle or rounded edges. Typically, basal cell carcinoma will appear in an area with sun damage. There is no conventional size or shape for it to be. Squamous cell carcinoma may be a raised bump in the skin with an ulcer in the center. It is usually small and scaling. Sometimes it can even be disfiguring. Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma mostly occurs on sun-exposed areas of the skin (Skin Cancer Facts). To distinguish malignant melanoma from normal moles or other forms of skin cancer an ABCD system was devised. The four letters in each stand for characteristics of melanoma. The A in the system stands for asymmetry. Melanoma lesions are usually not symmetrical, whereas normal moles usually are. The B stands for border. Melanomas, in general, have ragged or irregular borders. Moles typically have smooth, even borders. The C of the system stands for colour. Melanoma tumours are often several shades of brown of black. Lastly, the D stands for diameter. Early melanomas are normally more than 6 mm wide (Melanoma).
There are also four stages of Melanoma. The American Joint Committee on Cancer developed these stages. The committee publishes systems of classification for cancer staging. These systems are designed to help health care professionals to diagnose and treat many kinds of cancers (American Joint Committee on Cancer). The first stage, also known as Stage 0, is applicable to a tumour when it is found on the top layer of the epidermis only. Almost all of the cases in this stage can be cured. The treatment for this type of melanoma tumour is surgery, or the removal of a tumour with a knife. When a melanoma is Stage I-A, it is also low-risk. This tumour would be less than .75 mm thick. It will not have spread under the epidermis. The treatment for a melanoma is this stage is also surgery. A melanoma tumour that has progressed slightly further than Stage I-A, might be designated as a Stage I-B tumour. In this stage, it is low-risk. However, the malignant tumour has penetrated to the layer of skin under the epidermis, called the reticular dermis. The tumour is between .75 mm and 1.5 mm thick. Treatment is surgery. A case of melanoma in Stage II-A is between 1.5 mm and 4 mm thick. It has spread to the lower reticular dermis. The treatment for this case is surgery as well. A melanoma in Stage II-B is thicker than 4 mm, and it has spread to the subcutaneous fat. Additional tumours, called satellites, may be within 2 cm of the original melanoma. Treatment for a case like this is surgery. An especially serious melanoma tumour would probably in Stage III. In this stage, the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph node. Treatment for this stage is also surgery. The final and most serious stage of melanoma is Stage IV. Here, the melanoma has spread to other organs. It may have also spread to other areas of the skin or to other lymph nodes (Melanoma). The most prominent cause of skin cancer is sun damage. The damage is caused by ultraviolet rays. Two types of ultraviolet rays reach the skin: UV-A and UV-B. UV-A rays penetrate deep into the skin. They cause premature aging and wrinkling. They can also produce sunburn. After time, these rays can even cause skin cancer. UV-B rays are much stronger that UV-A rays. They are the most common cause of sunburns and also contribute to premature aging. These rays also cause cataracts. The total amount of UV rays is the greatest between the hours of ten in the morning and three in the afternoon (Melanoma). Various environmental causes contribute to the different types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is mostly instigated by many years of sun-exposure and burns. Squamous cell carcinoma can be produced by overexposure to one or more of the three types of rays: X-rays, gamma rays, and UV rays. Arsenic and Human Papillomavirus may also initiate this type of cancer. Additionally, certain types of tar, pitch and fuel oils contribute to squamous cell carcinoma progression. Sun damage mainly causes melanoma (Skin Cancer Facts).
A wide variety of treatment is presently available for sufferers of each kind of skin cancer. In addition to surgery by knife, basal cell carcinoma can be treated with radiation, cryosurgery, or even electro-surgery. Freezing an area with liquid nitrogen is identified as cryosurgery. Electro-surgery simply uses heat to eliminate the cancerous area. Lasers can also be used in removal. Squamous cell carcinoma is often removed surgically. When either a basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma appears of the face, a dermatologists or plastic surgeon will do a special kind of surgery. This type is known as microscopically controlled surgery because the tools involved are extremely tiny. Melanoma is also commonly treated with surgery. However, to guarantee complete recovery, it must be treated during the early stage (The Skin Cancer Guide).
For skin cancer in general, exposure to direct sunlight during childhood is the greatest risk factor. A family history of this disease also increases the risk. Studies recently conducted have concluded that diet also plays a role in the risk of skin cancer. People with a diet of twenty percent fat had fewer occurrences of skin cancer than those individuals eating a conventional diet of about thirty-eight percent fat (Skin Cancer).
Prevention of skin cancer in not difficult. The American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation have several recommendations for skin cancer prevention. They suggest avoiding the oudoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., because this is when ultraviolet rays are the most intense. Applying SPF-15 of higher sunscreen to all exposed areas of the body is also suggested. Reapply this sunscreen every two hours. Also, wear clothing that covers the body and shades the face. Avoiding sunlamps or tanning salons helps prevent skin cancer as well (Introduction to Skin Cancer). The American Cancer Society suggests a dermatologist visit at least every three years (Melanoma).
Although skin cancer has been developing on people for centuries, it has in the past few decades that doctors have truly begun to understand the disease. Identifying and treating this cancer is now reasonably easy. If treated early, skin cancer has a ninety-five percent cure rate (Skin Cancer Facts). Information on the causes and risk factors is readily available. Preventing the disease is simple and affordable. Protecting the skin for the first eighteen years of life can reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by up to seventy-eight percent (Melanoma).
“American Joint Committee on Cancer.” Cancer Staging. 20 April 2009. 3 Mar. 2010.
“Introduction to Skin Cancer.” Cancer Quest. 13 Jan. 2009. 1 Mar. 2010.
“Melanoma.” Medicine Net.Com. 01 Dec. 2009. 2 Mar. 2010.
“Skin Cancer.” Medicine Net.Com. 01 Dec. 2009. 2 Mar. 2010.
“Skin Cancer Facts.” The Skin Cancer Foundation. 10 Jan. 2010. 1 Mar. 2010.
“Skin Cancer Guide.” Skin Cancer Guide. 01 May 2009. 01 Mar. 2010.