There are many different kinds of skin cancers, with each type being distinguished by the types of skin cells that are primarily affected.
The skin is the largest organ in the body. Skin cancer is the most common of all human cancers. Some form of skin cancer is diagnosed in more than 1 million people in the United States each year. Cancer occurs when normal cells undergo a transformation during which they grow abnormally and multiply without normal controls.Skin cancer, like other forms of cancer, results from the unrestrained growth and division of cells. Perhaps because of the love for the sun, skin cancer is being reported more frequently every year. In fact, it is now the most common form of cancer.
What Is Skin Cancer?
While normal skin cells grow, develop, and die in predictable cycles, skin cancer develops when skin cells grow out of control. Instead of dying, the damaged DNA within skin cancer cells causes them to continue growing and produce more abnormal cells. They also tend to invade other tissues. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US.
Types of Skin Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and the least dangerous. It grows slowly, rarely spreads beyond its original site and is seldom life-threatening. But, if left untreated, it can grow deep beneath the skin into underlying tissue and bone, causing serious damage.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer and can grow anywhere, particularly on sites exposed to prolonged sunlight. It sometimes spreads to distant sites, including lymph nodes and internal organs. If not treated, it can become life-threatening.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Although the least common, cases are increasing rapidly. If discovered early, melanoma can be completely cured. If not treated, quickly, it can spread throughout the body and be deadly.
Skin Cancer Symptoms
Most skin cancers do not cause symptoms. When they do appear, the most common first symptom is a change in the skin.
- Slowly expanding, painless growth
- Bleeding scab or sore that heals and recurs
- Flat, firm, pale area
- Small, raised, pink, red, or pearly areas thay may bleed easily
- Large oozing, crusted area
- Growing lump with rough, scaly, or crusted surfaces
- Slow-growing flat, reddish patch in the skin
- Recurrent, nonhealing ulceration or bleeding
Skin Cancer Causes
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), it’s unclear what exactly causes basal and squamous cell skin cancers. They may be caused by unprotected and repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and from manmade sources like tanning beds. That’s because UV rays damage the DNA inside the skin cells.
According to the ACS, it’s also somewhat unclear what exactly causes melanoma. While most moles don’t turn into melanoma, researchers are unsure why some do. Like basal and squamous cell skin cancer treatment, melanoma can be caused by UV rays. However, some melanomas can appear in body parts not exposed to sunlight.
Both types of skin cancer occur when your skin cells’ DNA has errors (or mutations). According to the Mayo Clinic, these errors cause skin cells to grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cancer cells.
Skin Cancer Treatments
Your ASDS dermatologist will select the most appropriate treatment for a particular skin cancer or precancerous condition from amount the following procedures and techniques:
Mohs surgery. Sequential surgical removal of the skin cancer.
Wide local excision. Surgical removal of the tumor and a portion of the healthy surrounding tissue.
Cryosurgery. Destruction by freezing.
Laser surgery. Vaporization of the skin cancer by laser.
Curettage and Desiccation. Removal of the skin cancer by scraping and cauterization.
Topical chemotherapy. Treatment by application of a lotion or cream containing prescription medications.
Laser treatments for pre-cancerous growths. Removal by laser of skin conditions that could develop into skin cancer.
Photodynamic therapy for pre-cancerous growths. Treatment using special drugs called photosensitizing agents along with light therapy to eradicate pre-cancerous cells.