Introduction to skin cancer
Skin cancer is the best common type of cancer. Skin cancer is more common among people who work or play outdoor sports and among those who sunbathe. Fair-skinned people are particularly susceptible to emerging most forms of skin cancer because they produce less melanin. Melanin, the protective pigment found in the outer layer of the skin (epidermis), helps protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) light. However, skin cancer can also develop in dark-skinned people and people whose skin has not had significant sun exposure. Skin cancers can also appear years after X-ray treatment or exposure to cancer-causing substances (for example, ingestion of arsenic).
More than 5.4 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in more than 3.3 million people in the United States each year.
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The 3 main types of skin cancer are
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
These 3 types are caused, at least in part, by long-term sun disclosure.
Less common types of skin cancer are
- Atypical fibroxanthomas
- Cancer of the skin glands
- Kaposi’s sarcoma
- Merkel cell carcinoma
- Paget’s disease of the nipple or extramammary Paget (usually near the anus)
Bowen’s disease and possibly the keratoacanthomas are forms of squamous cell carcinoma. Lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes), can also develop on the skin.
Most skin cancers are treatable, especially when treated at an early stage. At first, skin cancers do not cause symptoms. Therefore, any unusual skin growth that expands or lasts for more than a few weeks should be examined by a doctor.
Screening for skin cancer
People should see their doctor if they notice any spots or lesions on the skin, which they think are unusual or have changed in appearance. A routine skin exam is done by the doctor, the person, or both.
Skin cancer prevention
Because many skin cancers appear to be related to UV exposure, doctors recommend several measures to limit UV exposure, starting in early childhood.
- Avoid the sun: for example, seeking shade, minimizing outdoor activities between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM (when the sun’s rays are strongest), and avoiding sunbathing and the use of booths tanning.
- Wear protective clothing – for example, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats
- Use sunscreen: at least with a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 with UVA and UVB protection and following the instructions (repeating the application every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating). However, exposure to the sun should not be prolonged by the fact of using it.
Doctors do not know if these measures reduce the chances of developing melanoma or dying from melanoma. However, sun protection does reduce the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. It also seems to be shown that the use of tanning booths, particularly by young people, increases the risk of melanoma.
Treatment of skin cancers
Doctors give most skin cancers by removing them surgically. Generally, the scar that remains after surgery depends on the size of original cancer, which, if found early, can be small.
Larger or more invasive [cancer] may require removing a significant amount of skin. Which may have to be replaced with a skin graft or skin flap.
In the case of a skin graft, a piece of skin is removed from another area of the person’s body. Generally where there is a greater amount of skin, and it is looser. This section of [skin] is stitched together in the area where the [cancer] was removed.
Doctors move the [skin] from an adjacent area to replace the area from which the cancer was removed in a skin flap. With a flap, the transferred skin is not completely cut from its place of origin, so it continues to receive its original blood supply. Also, a flap is regularly thicker than a graft.
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