What is Skin Cancer?
Skin is the uppermost part of the body that protects us from all external threats. So, the skin cancer is a major threat that may cause many other health related problems. Therefore, before discussing about skin cancer, let us have a look on our skin.
What is Skin?
Skin is the external layer of the body that protects our body from injury, heat, and other infections. More importantly, it also protects our body from the damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays, (the rays coming from the sun or sunlamps).
In addition to this, skin stores water and fat and regulates body heat. It also makes vitamin D from the sunlight.
As shown in the picture given below, skin has two layers as:
Epidermis: The epidermis is the upper layer of the body. It is largely made up of flat cells known as squamous cells. Basal cell (which is round in shape) found below the squamous cell.
Around the basal cells, Melanocytes are found, which make pigment (colour) that found in the skin. So, when your skin is exposed to UV rays, melanocytes make more pigment and hence colour of skin change to dark.
Dermis: Dermis is the lower layer of skin and it contains several types of cells and structures, such as blood vessels, glands, and lymph vessels. These are the glands that make sweat that helps to cool down the body.
Skin Cancer: The cancer that originates and develops in the skin is known as skin cancer. The cancer that originates and spread to skin is not a skin cancer.
Types of Skin Cancer:
Melanoma Cancer: Melanoma cancer begins in melanocytes. However, there is difference in terms of places of occurrence in men and women. For example, in men, it occurs on the skin of head, the neck, or the skin between the shoulders and the hips. On the other hand, in women, it grows on the skin of the lower legs or the skin between the shoulders and the hips. It is interesting to share that melanoma cancer is rare in dark skin people. However, if some dark people develop it then it grows normally under the fingernails, toenails, on the soles, or on the palms.
- Basal Cell Skin Cancer: Basal cell skin cancer is common in white skin people. This cancer grows in basal cell and normally that part of the skin which faces sun. For example face skin.
- Squamous Cell Skin Cancer: This cancer is more common in black skin people and it grows usually in that part of skin which normally do not face sun, such as legs. On the contrary, in white people, it grows on that part of skin which faces sun, such as head, face, neck, etc.
Some Other Types of Skin Cancer:
- Kaposi sarcoma
- Merkel cell carcinoma
- Cutaneous (skin) lymphoma
- Various types of sarcomas
- Skin adnexal tumours (These are the tumours that begin in hair follicles or sweat and oil glands)
Causes and Risk Factors of Skin Cancer:
Largely skin cancer is caused because of enduring exposure to sun (especially UV rays). Besides, people who had or had severe, blistering sunburn in their past are greater risk of skin cancer.
Other risk factors of skin cancer:
- Sunlamps and Tanning Booths: People who face artificial UV radiation from sunlamps and tanning booths are at greater risk of skin cancer.
- Personal History: The person who has already melanoma in his/her fast is on greater risk developing skin cancer.
- Sensitive Skin: Some types of white/fair skins are more sensitive and get easily burned/damaged even in short time exposure to sun; remain at high risk.
- Certain Medicines: Some medicines such as antibiotics, antidepressants, or hormones make skin more sensitive to the sun that it increases the risk of skin cancer.
- Family History: Some times, skin cancer (especially melanoma) affects to close family members, such as parents, siblings, child, etc.
Sign and Symptoms of Skin Cancer:
Symptom of skin cancer is “ABCEDE” I am not kidding this true because:
- ‘A’ stands for Asymmetry means change in skin shape and does not match with the other half of the skin.
- ‘B’ stands for Border that turns irregular means edges you notice that became ragged, blurred, or notched.
- ‘C’ stands for Colour means colour of the skin changes that can be easily noticed.
- ‘D’ stands for Diameter means there is also change in size (normally increases).
- ‘E’ stands for Evolving means mole changes over period of time.
Besides, there is also difference in texture of the skin.
Stages of Skin Cancer:
Following are the stages of skin cancer:
- Stage 0: This is the stage melanoma originates (i.e. melanoma in situ)
- Stage I: The size of tumour is about 1 millimetre thick.
- Stage II: The size increases up to 2 millimetres thick. Likely, surface breaks down.
- Stage III: The melanoma spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: Cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
Diagnosis of Skin Cancer:
Unlike other types of cancer, diagnosis of skin cancer is very simple and it does not need expensive instruments and technology. The doctor with special training (especially dermatologist) can identify easily with simple check-up.
However, ‘biopsy’ is the significant method to check-up skin cancer.
Treatment of Skin Cancer:
Treatment of a skin cancer normally depends upon the following factors:
- The stage of skin cancer
- The size of the skin cancer
- The type of skin cancer
- Place of the skin cancer
- Condition of physical health and medical history of the patient
However, doctors normally remove the cancer cells during the biopsy. But in some cases, doctors also prefer following types of treatment:
- Photo-dynamic Therapy
- Radiation Therapy
- Biological Therapy
Preventive Measures for the Skin Cancer:
As discussed above, the most common cause of a skin cancer is exposure to UV rays; so, you need to protect your skin from the UV rays. Especially the people who are living in the equatorial or tropical regions, they need to take much precaution because these regions face more intense sun rays.
However, if you go out and face sun rays, then cover your body properly and also use proper sunscreen (cream).