Getting to know Skin Cancer

skin-cancer-chart

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer? One million people in the United States are diagnosed each year with some type of skin cancer.

Did you also know that there are THREE main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma?

Non-melanoma skin cancers usually develop in the outermost layer of skin (epidermis) and are often named after the type of skin cell from which they develop.  The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:  1/ Basal cell carcinoma – starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis and accounts for about 75% of skin cancers, and 2/ Squamous cell carcinoma – starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and accounts for about 20% of skin cancers.  Non-melanoma skin cancer is mainly caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light comes from the sun, as well as artificial sun beds and sunlamps.  Surgery is the main treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer. This involves removing the cancerous tumor and some of the surrounding skin.

Other treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer include cryotherapy, creams, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a treatment known as photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer is generally successful as, unlike most other types of cancer, there is a considerably lower risk that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body.  Non-melanoma skin cancer is not always preventable, but you can reduce your chances of developing the condition by avoiding overexposure to UV light.

You can help protect yourself from sunburn by using sunscreen, dressing wisely and limiting the time you spend in the sun during the hottest part of the day.

The other type of cancer is melanoma. Melanoma is the least common, but most aggressive of the two types of skin cancer. Melanoma originates in melanocytes-the cells in the skin that produce pigment or melanin. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.  If not treated early, this type of cancer can be fatal. Recent research shows the number of skin cancer cases in the United States growing at an alarming rate.

Melanoma happens when some cells in the skin begin to develop abnormally. It is thought that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from natural or artificial sources may be partly responsible.  The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can happen anywhere on the body, but the back, legs, arms and face are most commonly affected.  In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and more than one color. They may also be larger than normal moles and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.  It is suggested that people follow the “ABCD” guideline when identifying skin cancer symptoms. A is for asymmetric; one side of the lesion does not look like the other. B is for border irregularity, margins of the area are irregular. C is for color, melanomas are often a mixture of black, tan, brown, blue, red or white. D is for diameter. Cancerous lesions typically have a diameter of 6 mm or more.  Melanoma is not always preventable, but you can reduce your chances of developing it by limiting your exposure to UV light.  You can help protect yourself from sun damage by using sunscreen and dressing wisely in the sun. Sun beds and sunlamps should also be avoided.  Also, make sure you are checking your moles and freckles regularly as this may lead to an early diagnosis and increase your chances of successful treatment.

In conclusion, we have learned the different forms of skin cancer, and how to prevent and treat each of them. No matter your age, gender, skin color, or where you live – everyone should be protecting their skin from the sun every single day!

#HealthySkinisHappiness

 

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