Skin Cancer overview
Skin cancer is a very common type of cancer, usually developing on sun-exposed parts of the skin. This means it most often occurs on the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, arms, and hands. That said, it can develop on areas not regularly exposed to the sun. There are three major types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
The signs and symptoms of skin cancer greatly depend on which type you develop. Basal cell carcinoma typically appears as a waxy, flesh-colored bump, a flat scar-like mark, or bleeding and scabbing sores that keep returning. Squamous cell carcinoma, on the other hand, typically results in a firm, red node, or a flat and scaly lesion.
Finally, melanoma usually develops into a brownish spot with darker specks. It can also appear as a mole that changes in size, color, or texture. In general, any changes in your skin should be tracked and brought up with your doctor.
Skin cancer forms when healthy skin cells develop errors in the DNA used to make more skin cells. Over time, this mutation can impact the functionality and increase proliferation to a dangerous level. For most types of cancer, a significant complication is a risk of metastasizing or spreading to other parts of the body.
While this is relatively uncommon for skin cancer, if it has developed enough, cancer can travel to the rest of the body via the lymphatic system. Skin cancer typically starts in the top layer of the epidermis. However, there are three main types of cells found in the skin, each of which can develop into cancer.
There is a wide range of known risk factors for developing skin cancer. As mentioned, one of the greatest is over-exposure to the sun. This is especially true for those with fair skin, as they will absorb much more sunlight. Likewise, a history of sunburns is likely to increase the chances of developing skin cancer in the future. Other risk factors include things like family history, frequency of non-cancerous moles and lesions you have, as well as a weakened immune system.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer across the US, with reports indicating that nearly 10,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. That means over 3 million people live with some type of skin cancer every year, or one in five over the course of their lives.
Skin cancer is a very serious diagnosis and needs to be handled quickly and efficiently. If you’ve noticed any changes to you or the skin of a loved one, don’t wait to make an appointment to get it checked out. The best way to increase your chances of treating cancer successfully is early detection along with proper treatment.