INTRODUCTION: Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy, well ahead of lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. The disease generally develops in the epidermis (the outer most skin layer), so a tumor is usually clearly visible.
When left untreated, it can be very dangerous, but with early discovery and intervention most are curable. There are 3 common types of skin cancer, each of which is named after the kind of skin cell from which it arises. More than one million US residents will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2008.
CAUSE: Skin cancer is an abnormal growth on the skin which can have many causes. It is often caused by exposing skin to UV rays excessively. Cancers caused by Ultraviolet exposure may be prevented by avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight or other UV sources, and wearing sun-protecting garments.
A lot of people go out of their way to get an artificial tan before they leave for a sunny vacation, because they want to get a “base coat” to minimize sun damage. Sunburn, brought on by a kind of ultraviolet (UV) light known as UVB, has served as a surrogate for far more serious conditions such as melanoma and basal and squamous cell carcinoma, 3 forms of skin cancer.
RISK: Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of skin cancer, the risk of developing such a cancer can be reduced significantly with the following steps: reducing exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, especially in the early years, avoiding sunburns (NOTE: Recent studies have shown that sunscreen does not protect from melanoma). Although it is generally accepted that UV exposure is the greatest risk factor in melanoma development, some skeptics say that there is no proven data that links moderate sun exposure with the appearance of melanoma.
The possibility of developing skin cancer is also affected by where a person lives. People who live in areas that receive the most UV radiation from the sun are more likely to get skin cancer. In the United States, for example, skin cancer is more commonly found in Texas than it is in Minnesota, where the sun is not quite as strong. On a worldwide basis, the highest rates of skin cancer are found in South Africa and Australia, which are areas that receive high amounts of Ultraviolet radiation.
TYPES: The most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) which may be locally disfiguring but rarely metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). The most dangerous kind of skin cancer is malignant melanoma.
TREATMENT: Most skin cancers can be treated by removal of the lesion, making sure that the edges (margins) are free of the tumor cells. However,it is important that skin cancers are found and treated early because they can invade and destroy nearby tissue.
CONCLUSION: Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancer and is also known as skin neoplasia. The use of sunscreen is recommended by medical organizations as a measure that helps to protect against skin cancer (NOTE: Recent studies however have shown that sunscreen does not protect you from melanoma). Approximately 65% of melanomas and 90% of basal and squamous cell skin cancers are attributed to UV exposure. Even though it is rare, malignant melanoma is responsible for 75% of all skin cancer related death cases.
It has also been estimated that almost half of all Americans who reach the age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once. The most common warning sign of a skin malignancy is a change in the skins appearance, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal. The greatest number of skin cancers appear after age 50, but the sun’s damaging effects begin early in life. Therefore, protection should start during childhood in order to prevent skin cancer later in life.