Skin cancer awareness is widespread, but we still do not give enough attention to the protection of our biggest organ. Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when damaged cells trigger skin mutations or genetic defects that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours. Skin cancer is the most common consequence of the overexposure to the sun or artificial UV light from tanning beds. This disease can be fatal, and early detection is key to successful treatment. Although the most secure method of prevention is a regular check-up at the dermatologist, you can do something yourself, from the comfort of your own home. Physician recommends self-examinations every 3 – 5 months, and
if you notice any suspicious changes on your skin, immediately contact your dermatologist.
Skin cancer types
When talking about skin cancer, there are 4 different dangerous changes on skin:
Basal-cell carcinoma or basal-cell cancer
This is the most common type of skin cancer. About 8 of 10 skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. These carcinomas usually develop on sun-exposed areas, especially the head and neck. These cancers tend to grow slowly. It’s very rare for basal cancer to spread to other parts of the body. However, if a basal cancer is left untreated, it can grow into nearby areas and invade the bone or other tissues beneath the skin. If not removed completely, basal cell carcinoma can recur (come back) in the same place on the skin. People who have had basal cell skin cancers are also more likely to get new ones in other places.
Squamous cell carcinoma
About 2 out of 10 skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These carcinomas most often appear on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, ears, neck, lips and back of the hands. They can also develop in scars or chronic skin sores elsewhere. Less often, they form in the skin of the genital area. Squamous cell cancers are more likely to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread to other parts of the body than basal cell cancers, although this is still uncommon.
Those are dome-shaped tumours that are found on sun-exposed skin. hey may start out growing quickly, but their growth usually slows down. Many keratoacanthomas shrink or even go away on their own over time without any treatment. But some continue to grow, and a few may even spread to other parts of the body. Their growth is often hard to predict, so many skin cancer experts consider them a type of squamous cell skin cancer and treat them as such.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma often resembles moles, some even grow from the moles. Most melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-coloured, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is usually caused by intense temporary exposure to UV rays (which leads to sunburns), especially with those who have genetic predispositions to this disease. If the melanoma is detected and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. Although it is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths.
Self-examination – the best skin cancer prevention
Even though the main cause of skin cancer is the overexposure to the sun, it is necessary to examine and areas of the body which are not that exposed, such as the earlobes, breasts, groin, behind ears, palms and feet – and especially the area between your fingers.
Symptoms you need to look out for:
● Newly emerging pigmentation that grows and spreads
● The occurrence of small wounds on the +body that form crusts or wounds do not heal
● Asymmetrical mole with halves of different colours and/or is an alarming indication that you should visit a dermatologist
Those with a history of skin cancer in their family (genetic predisposition) are at a higher risk of developing cancer compared to the general population. Therefore, it is recommended to carry out the self-examination more often, as well as visit a dermatologist, at least once a year. People with pale skin also belong to the risk group, as well as those who often got sunburnt. Persons with a weak immune system, especially those that are HIV positive or have lymphoma od are also at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Sunbathing with caution
Even though there are numerous campaigns to fight skin cancer, the number of patients still grows. In order to get tan, more and more young people turn to artificial UV light, and during summer days many do not hesitate to sunbath between 11 am and 4 pm, despite warnings that sunrays at that time are most harmful. It should be noted that our skin remembers each burn and that the damage caused during childhood and adolescence may become apparent in the later stages of life and result in the appearance of skin cancer.
Therefore, you should replace the time you spend at the beach in the sun’s peak hours with shade, increase your vitamin D intake and don’t forget to use sunscreen.