Skin Cancer

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Remedies

Skin Cancer Treatment Remedies


The contents of this app are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. The information provided should not be considered as a substitute for the advice of a medical doctor or other healthcare professional.

What is Skin Cancer?

The skin, which covers the body, is the body’s largest organ. It protects your body against physical injury and regulates its temperature.

It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.

The skin comprises of cells, and is made up of 2 major layers, the dermis and epidermis.

Epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin and is made up of melanocytes (which generate melanin), squamous cells (your skin's inner lining), and basal cells (which generates new skin cells).

Melanin is the pigment responsible for the normal colour of your skin. It gives colour to the skin.

To protect your skin’s deeper layers, Melanocytes produce more pigment (melanin) when you are exposed to the sun.

The dermis lies beneath the epidermis and contains sweat glands, blood and lymph vessels, roots of hairs, and nerves.

Of the 3 types of cancer, BCC remains the most common. It is estimated that 75 percent of the cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are of type BCC.

BCC grows from basal cells of the skin, deep in the epidermis, and in skin areas exposed to the sun. Such areas would be the face (cheeks, nose, and forehead).

A majority of those diagnosed with BCC are either in their middle age or old age. BCC is also referred to as rodent ulcer given its tendency to grow from a small lump to a much bigger one.

BCC rarely hurts but often itches; when scratched, the patch may bleed.

Basal cell skin cancer can be classified into nodular, superficial, morphoeic, and pigmented cancers. These subtypes of cancer will rarely spread from one part of the body to another. Secondary cancers are therefore less likely to develop from basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

Burnt areas of the skin, ulcerated areas, and areas of the skin with scars may also develop this SCC.

Typically, SCC grows faster than BCC and may appear like crusty or scaly ulcers. SCC may cause secondary cancers as it spreads from one organ to another.

SCC appears like a sore that is yet to heal. In some patients, it appears as a thickened scaly spot, tender to touch.

Melanoma on the other hand begins in melanocytes before spreading to other parts of the body.

Melanocytes are cells of the skin responsible for making the brown pigment that gives your skin colour.

Melanomas can occur anywhere on your body, but commonly affect the chest and the back. In women, melanomas would most likely occur on their legs.

Other skin cancers include merkel cell carcinoma, skin adnexal tumours, kaposi sarcoma, cutaneous (skin) lymphoma, and many others.

In its onset, skin cancer generally appears as nodules, bumps, or irregular (atypical) patches on your skin surface. The size and shape of these visible but irregular skin masses change as the cancer grows.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the U.S. and the number of cases continues to rise.

Skin cancer often develops in the epidermis. However, if the cancer is not treated at early point in time, it grows into your dermis and other subcutaneous tissues. In its advanced stages, the cancer may stretch to nearby tissues (muscle tissues), cartilage or bone.

In the long run, skin cancer may spread to blood or lymph fluids, predisposing other organs such as the lungs or liver to the condition.

It is also important to note that not all spots appearing on the skin surface are cancerous (some are benign).

If you see moles, freckles, or sunspots on your skin, take them as warning signs of extreme exposure to the sun or as an imminent skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Skin cancers generally manifest as a sore or spot that fails to heal in 4 weeks.

The sore or spot may cause an itchy feeling or hurt. In some cases, the sore might bleed for 4 weeks or more.

Basal cell carcinomas may grow 4 to 6 inches into the skin. A patient diagnosed with BCC is likely to witness discoloured skin patches (brown in colour) on his chest or back, and lumps on the face (may also appear on the ear or neck).

Although BCCs may be painless, itching and bleeding in the affected areas is common.

For some patients diagnosed with skin cancer, broken down skin may become an ulcer.

Other symptoms of melanoma include multicoloured spots with irregular borders, a change in the appearance of the mole and a mole diameter bigger than 6 mm. The moles are usually enlarged.

Persons diagnosed with SCC experience firm red lumps or crusted lesions (scab-like) considered to be tumours. These lesions or lumps often appear on the face, lips, ears, arms, hands, or legs.

In some patients with SCC, lumps may appear on the genitals, near the anus, or right in the mouth.

You are advised to seek medical attention or advice immediately you experience any form of skin discoloration, lumps, or lesion that fail to heal within 4 weeks.

Skin Cancer Causes

This could be as a result of long-term exposure to the sun or short-term exposure to intense UV rays or burning.

Ultraviolet light damages the DNA of your skin cells. It may take many years for cancer cells to develop after this exposure.

Use of tanning booths.

Immunosuppression - This means impairment of the immune system.

People with fair skin, especially types that freckle, sunburn easily, or become painful in the sun.

People with numerous moles, unusual moles, or large moles that were present at birth.

Those with certain genetic disorders that deplete skin pigment such as albinism, xeroderma pigmentosum.

The sun’s rays are made up of 3 forms of UV light. These include UVA, UVB, and UVC.

This explains why areas with extreme levels of UV radiation register the highest number of skin cancer cases.

The UV radiation may be unnoticeable to you but may cause sunburns, premature skin ageing and skin or eye damage, predisposing you to skin cancer. This will depend on your total life-time exposure to the radiations or the pattern of exposure.

Research and studies suggest that sun exposure in adult life is the biggest contributor to skin cancer.

A UV Index of 3 or above is high enough to turn your damaged skin cells cancerous.

Some skin cancers develop in other areas not exposed to the sun. Other factors (risk factors) other than UV radiations may also lead to skin cancers.

Persons with fair skin (skin with less pigment) are at a high risk of getting skin cancer. Having less pigment (melanin) implies that your skin will offer less protection against UV radiation.

Similarly, those with light-coloured eyes, and blond or red hair stand a higher chance of developing cancerous cells than those with darker skins.

Some cases of skin cancers have been linked to a history of sunburns. Research suggests that persons who had blistering sunburns in their childhood or teen years stand a high chance of developing skin cancers in their adulthood.

Individuals with many abnormal moles (dysplastic nevi) are more likely to suffer from skin cancer at some point in their life. Those with a history of irregularly-sized moles should be on the lookout.

A number of those diagnosed with skin cancer also reported of a family member who had skin cancer. If your sibling or any of your parents has suffered from skin cancer before, you are also likely to experience skin cancer. A family history is also a risk factor for skin cancer.

If your immune system has been weakened by some infection such as HIV/AIDS, you stand a high risk of getting skin cancer. Individuals who have undergone organ transplants and on immunosuppressant drugs may also have a weakened immune system.

Persons treated for skin conditions (such as acne and eczema) are likely to suffer from basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

Treatments for psoriasis, particularly psoralen ultraviolet light treatment (PUVA), put you at a high risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancers.

Scarring, especially from skin ulcers or burns, predisposes your skin to sun damage. This also increases the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancers.

Actinic keratosis (also known as solar keratosis) is a skin condition brought about by intense exposure to sun’s rays. If you have been diagnosed with this condition before, you are more likely to develop skin cancer. Always cover up to prevent any additional damage by the sun.

Some inherited skin conditions such as xeroderma pigmentosum increase the risk of getting skin cancers. Persons with this genetic condition are advised to avoid any form of sun exposure, however small, because their skins are not able to repair damages caused by the sun.

Naevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (commonly known as Gorlin’s syndrome) is a genetic condition linked to basal cell cancers (BCCs). Such conditions increase the risk of developing skin cancers.

Research has also shown that people who smoke stand a higher chance of developing squamous cell skin cancers (SCC), which often occur on their lips.

Chemical exposure to substances such as arsenic, paraffin, coal, industrial tar, and certain oils are more likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Diagnosis

During diagnosis of skin cancer, your doctor examines your skin and assesses any changes that are abnormal.

The doctor may order for a skin biopsy (take a sample of the suspicious skin for testing).

A skin biopsy is a surgical procedure performed by a dermatologist; the entire tumour or part of it may be removed for study. This can be done under a local anaesthetic (when the patient is awake).

The affected area must be numbed before any operation can be carried out.

When performing a biopsy, the doctor studies suspicious skin cells under his microscope. He may also order for additional tests on the skin sample. This is the most certain way of diagnosing skin cancer.

If there is reason to believe that you have skin cancer, additional tests may be performed to tell the extent of your cancer (its stage). This information is necessary in determining the most effective treatment option for the condition.

Roman numerals (I through IV) are used by doctors to point out the stage of your cancer. Stage I skin cancers are usually small and confined to the surface area where they started out while stage IV classifies advanced forms of cancer that have spread to other parts of the body.

A surgeon may also find it necessary to perform a lymph node test particularly in cases of case of melanoma.

During a lymph node test, some blue dye or radioactive substance is injected next to the skin tumour. A scanner is then used to locate lymph nodes soaked in the dye or with traces of the radioactive substance.

The surgeon may opt to extract the lymph nodes to confirm the presence of cancerous cells.

In cases where your doctor suspects that your tumour has spread to other areas of the body, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT or CAT scan could be performed to identify the locations of the other tumours.

Skin Cancer Treatment

Persons diagnosed with small skin cancers confined to the skin surface may not require any specialized treatment other than a skin biopsy to remove the entire growth.

It is common for doctors to destroy small skin cancers by simply freezing them using liquid nitrogen. With time, the dead tissues of the skin slough off.

Your doctor may also recommend excisional surgery where the doctor excises (cuts out) the cancerous cells or tissues.

The doctor may perform wide excision during excisional surgery. This is where normal or health skin surrounding the tumour is also removed together with the cancerous cells.

Sentinel lymph node mapping (for deeper lesions)—to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes.

Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers).

For skin cancers that are difficult to treat and those that usually recur, the doctor may suggest Mohs surgery. This treatment option applies for both BCCs and SCCs.

During Mohs surgery, a surgeon cuts out cancerous tissues one layer after another, observing each one of these layers under his microscope, until he is sure that all the abnormal cells have been removed.

When all the cancerous tissues have been successfully removed, the doctor may scrape off any other remaining cancerous cells using a curet. Your doctor may also employ the use of an electric needle to destroy left-over cells that could be cancerous.

Sometimes, doctors use radiation therapy to kill cancer cells when it is not possible to remove all cancerous cells or tissues using surgery. This form of therapy makes use of high-powered energy beams, like X-rays to destroy cancerous cells.

It is not uncommon for your doctor to suggest chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, doctors prescribe drugs to kill or destroy cancerous tissues.

Lotions and creams made up of anti-cancer agents are applied on the affected areas of the skin for skin cancers confined on the skin surface.

Skin Cancer Prevention

A majority of the cases of skin cancer can be prevented.

Keeping away from the sun especially the midday sun helps us to avoid suntans and sunburns. This is because the sun’s rays are believed to be strongest at midday.

You can also use broad-spectrum sunscreens (with an SPF of 15); the sunscreen should be applied evenly and after every 2 hours.

Since sunscreens do not guarantee maximum protection, doctors suggest the use of protective clothing for additional protection. Dark and tightly woven clothing are preferred for your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat for your head.

Tanning beds should be avoided. It is believed that light used in such beds emits UV light and increase the risk of developing skin cancers.

It is also important that you examine your skin on a regular basis and report any outgrowths or changes to your doctor. Check for any moles, bumps, freckles, or even birth marks.

Eighty percent of a person's lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.

Skin Cancer Statistics & Facts

Your skin is the body’s largest organ.

Skin cancer occurs as a result of DNA damage due to intense exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light.

Early diagnosis for skin cancer is essential for better treatment of skin cancer. Regular self-exams should therefore be encouraged.

Malignant melanoma is ranked as the 5th most prominent type of cancer in the United Kingdom, accounting for about 4 percent of all new cases reported.

Skin cancer remains the most common type of cancer in the U.S. It is estimated that 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year in 2 million people.

In the past 3 decades alone, cases reported of skin cancer are much higher than those of all other cancers combined.

One in every 5 Americans is likely to develop some form of skin cancer at one point of his or her lifetime.

The incidence of SCC type of cancer in the United States has been growing steadily, at a rate of 200 percent in the past 3 decades alone.

Patients who have undergone organ transplants are more likely to suffer from squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) than those with no history of organ transplant (they are 250 times more likely to get SCC).

Studies link 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers to ultraviolet radiation (intense exposure to the sun’s rays).

About 9,710 people are expected to die of melanoma in the year 2014 alone.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the US. BCCs are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. An estimated 700,000 cases of SCC are diagnosed each year in the US.

Organ transplant patients are up to 250 times more likely than the general public to develop squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

About two percent of squamous cell carcinoma patients – between 3,900 and 8,800 people – died from the disease in the US in 2012.

As many as three thousand deaths from advanced basal cell carcinoma occur annually in the US.

Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.

Approximately 65 percent of all squamous cell carcinomas and 36 percent of all basal cell carcinomas arise in lesions that previously were diagnosed as actinic keratoses.

About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.

Around 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer each year.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

Over 750,000 Australians are treated for skin cancer each year – that's over 2,000 people every day.

Skin cancer already cost the health system around $300 million annually over a decade ago, the highest cost of all cancers. More recently it has been calculated that the total cost of non-melanoma skin cancers alone was $512.3 million in 2010 (diagnosis, treatment and pathology).

In 2013, 374 Victorians died from melanoma.

Eighty-nine per cent of Victorians are alive five years following a diagnosis of melanoma. This has improved significantly from 85% in 198.


Skin Cancer Treatment Remedies plus

The contents of this app are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. The information provided should not be considered as a substitute for the advice of a medical doctor or other healthcare professional.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer can be described as the uncontrolled development or growth of abnormal (unnatural) cells in the skin. It is a cancer that starts in the cells of your skin. Skin cancer develops in the tissues of your skin.

The most prominent types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma

BCC grows often occurs on the patient’s head, his neck, or upper body. BCCs will rarely show noticeable symptoms. It is however common for BCC to bleed or become inflamed; dead tissues may ulcerate or slough off.

Squamous cell cancer (SCC) on the other hand accounts for 20 percent of all the skin cancers diagnosed. This form of cancer begins in keratinocytes (epidermis) and like BCC, affects areas exposed to the sun. This cancer may also develop around the anus or vulva.

Melanoma is currently the most severe (serious) type of skin cancer. It is often characterized by an irregular surface which could be black, red, brown, white, blue, or grey in colour. The surface is rarely one colour.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms for skin cancer vary from one person to another depending on the type of cancer that one has been diagnosed with.

The most prominent warning signs of skin cancer include inflamed skin wounds that never heal, discoloured skin patches, and changes in the colour, shape, size, or texture of skin bumps.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) looks like a reddish patch of scaly skin that takes long to heal. The scars might bleed and feel waxy.

Melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, is characterized by a group of shiny, firm, and dark bumps.

SCC on the other hand appears reddish with wart-like bumps that grow gradually.

Skin Cancer Causes

Skin cancer will occur when DNA damage to your skin cells is not repaired triggering mutations and other genetic defects that promote rapid growth or multiplication of the abnormal cells. This may lead to formation of malignant tumours.

The prime cause of skin cancers is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiations may come from the sun or solarium tanning machines.

UVA accounts for most of the natural sun light, strikes deep into your skin and causes your skin to age. Some researchers link it to skin cancer.

UVB on the other hand is known to be the UV light that burns your skin. It is the most prominent cause of non-melanoma skin cancers.

UVC does not reach the earth surface because it is filtered out by the ozone layer (the earth’s atmosphere).

Skin Cancer Treatment

Treatment method for skin cancer depends on the type of cancer, its stage, and the general health of the patient.

Mohs surgery is the recommended mode of treatment where much of the skin has to be conserved. Areas such as the nose will require removal of cancerous cells without cutting out excessive flesh.

Systemic chemotherapy may also be used for skin cancers believed to have spread to other parts of your body.

Photodynamic therapy on the other hand combines laser light and drugs to kill cancerous cells. Drugs which make cancer cells active when exposed to light are used.

For some cases of skin cancer, your doctor may recommend biological treatments to stimulate the patient’s immune system to fight cancer cells. This form of treatment is known as biological therapy.

pub 48 Diagnosing and Treating

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