Skin Cancer Melanoma: Signs - Symptoms - Treatments
Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/03/08
Synopsis: Information on causes, signs, symptoms and treatment of skin cancers including melanomas, one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in the world.
Skin cancers are cancers that arise from the skin. They are due to the development of abnormal cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. There are three main types: basal cell cancer (BCC), squamous cell cancer (SCC) and melanoma. The first two together along with a number of less common skin cancers are known as non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Basal cell cancer grows slowly and can damage the tissue around it but is unlikely to spread to distant areas or result in death.
Skin cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in the world. It strikes any age group, and can be deadly if not treated. Approximately one in six people will develop skin cancer. Medical experts unanimously agree that overexposure to sunlight is the main culprit. Other factors include sunburn with blistering especially during childhood, skin creams that contain tar if used over a prolonged period, repeated X-rays, exposure to coal and arsenic, radiation, chemotherapy and family history. Freckles with fair skin that doesn't tan very easily can also put one at risk.
A Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes which are found predominantly in skin but also in the bowel and the eye. It is one of the rarer types of skin cancer but causes the majority of skin cancer related deaths. Malignant melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer. It is due to uncontrolled growth of pigment cells, called melanocytes. Despite many years of intensive laboratory and clinical research, the sole effective cure is surgical resection of the primary tumor before it achieves a Breslow thickness greater than 1 mm.
Generally, an individual's risk for developing melanoma depends on two groups of factors: intrinsic and environmental. "Intrinsic" factors are generally an individual's family history and inherited genotype, while the most relevant environmental factor is sun exposure.
Squamous cell cancer
This is also a very dangerous skin cancer type.
This type of skin cancer does not spread regularly as it shows its impact occasionally and when it spreads all over the body it could be much more dangerous that melanoma even.
Warning signs include a crusty surface on the arms or face, flesh-colored or brown lesion on the back or chest, or a waxy bump on the neck, face or ears.
This type of cancer is not likely to spread to other areas of the body; it's also fairly easy to treat.
Basal Cell Skin Cancer
Photo of a basal cell carcinoma on the back, Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer.
This is the third, last and the most common type of the skin cancer.
Basal-cell carcinoma (BCC), also known as basal-cell cancer, the most common type of skin cancer, often appears as a painless raised area of skin which may be shiny with small blood vessels running over it - or it may present as a raised area with ulceration.
Basal-cell cancer grows slowly and can damage the tissue around it but is unlikely to spread to distant areas or to result in death.
Less Common Forms of Skin Cancer
- Merkel cell carcinoma is rare, although it can spread rapidly. The warning signs are firm, shiny nodules found in hair follicles and just below the skin on areas of the body exposed to the sun.
- Also rare is Kaposi's sarcoma, found mainly in people with a weakened immune system; warning signs are purple patches on the skin.
- Sebaceous gland carcinoma is characterized by hard nodules on the body, especially on the eyelid.
Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms
There are a variety of different skin cancer symptoms. These include changes in the skin that do not heal, ulcering in the skin, discolored skin, and changes in existing moles, such as jagged edges to the mole and enlargement of the mole.
- Merkel cell carcinomas: Most often rapidly growing, non-tender red, purple or skin colored bumps that are not painful or itchy.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Commonly a red, scaling, thickened patch on sun-exposed skin. Some are firm hard nodules and dome shaped like keratoacanthomas.
- Basal cell carcinoma: Usually presents as a raised, smooth, pearly bump on the sun-exposed skin of the head, neck or shoulders. Sometimes small blood vessels (called telangiectasia) can be seen within the tumor.
- Melanoma: Most melanomas consist of various colors from shades of brown to black. A small amount of melanomas are pink, red or fleshy in color; these are called amelanotic melanomas which tend to be more aggressive. Warning signs of malignant melanoma include change in the size, shape, color or elevation of a mole. Other signs are the appearance of a new mole during adulthood or pain, itching, ulceration, redness around the site, or bleeding at the site.
Skin Cancer Examination
While examining yourself for skin cancer can be scary, it is a necessary procedure to perform considering that a full 1 in 5 people can be expected to contract some form of skin cancer throughout their lifetime. Doctors recommend that you check yourself for skin cancer monthly to ensure that you spot any problems early on. To check yourself for skin cancer, you need to have a few mirrors so that you can accurately see all parts of your body.
The entire surface area of the body needs to be checked for skin cancer, as it can appear anywhere. First, examine your head and your face, as well as your scalp, in the mirror. Gradually work your way down your body, ensuring that you're checking everywhere - commonly missed spots include underneath the breasts, and parts of the back and buttocks. Also be sure to check the genital areas as well as every part of the feet, including the webbing between toes.
The main thing to look for when performing a self-examination for skin cancer is the appearance of irregular moles. Malformed moles can result in malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. If you're looking on your body and you find that a mole is asymmetrical, with one side of the mole appearing different than the other side, you may want to consult a doctor. Also, most moles complete their growth before age twenty.
If a mole on your body begins growing past age twenty, you should also speak to a doctor.
Check for irregularities on the borders of the mole; they should be well-defined and should be uniform in growth. Also, moles that change color to a dark black, red, or even white represent a significant risk for a problem.
Skin Cancer Has a High Cure Rate if Caught Early
Prevention and self examination are the key to early detection, along with a regular visit to your doctor for check ups.
- The best methods to avoid skin cancer are to avoid the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Wear a sunscreen if you are out doors with an SPF of at least 15 or more, applied thirty minutes before going into the sun. Put the sunscreen everywhere the suns rays will hit you. Don't forget your ears and men don't forget any bald areas on top of your head.
- If you have to be out in the sun, use a wide brimmed hat or cap.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. Choose sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses can help prevent cataracts as well.
- Wear long sleeve shirts and pants if it is not sweltering hot, to better protect your body.
- Don't use tanning salons as they can damage your skin just like the sun.
Of course there is the controversy that you need some sun in order NOT to be vitamin D deficient. Ask your doctor to prescribe a good vitamin D supplement. Your doctor can advise the proper dose to take. I know it is hard at times to completely avoid the sun. A few minutes of sun occasionally with a good sun screen, should not be too harmful, as long as you watch the time of day and check your body on a regular basis. Also too much sun can contribute to wrinkles.
Avoidance is best, but not always possible. Hence, just be very careful and check, check, check your body regularly (monthly if possible) and go to your doctor immediately if you notice any irregularities.
Facts and Statistics
- An estimated 9,940 people will die of melanoma in 2015 (U.S.)
- Between 20% and 30% of melanomas develop from moles.
- One person dies of melanoma every hour (every 57 minutes).
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
- Globally in 2012 melanoma occurred in 232,000 people, and resulted in 55,000 deaths.
- An estimated 73,870 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2015.
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, globally accounting for at least 40% of cases.
- Greater than 90% of skin cancer cases are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.
- Of non-melanoma skin cancers, about 80% are basal cell cancers and 20% squamous cell cancers.
- Melanoma accounts for less than two percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
- Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
- Individuals who have used tanning beds 10 or more times in their lives have a 34 percent increased risk of developing melanoma compared to those who have never used tanning beds.
- Just one indoor tanning session increases users' chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional session during the same year boosts the risk almost another two percent.
Associated Sub-Topics and Pertinent Documents
Suggested Related Articles
- 1 - Millennials Fail to Understand Dangers of Tanning - Oregon State University - (2018/04/25).
- 2 - Mycosis Fungoides: A Type of Skin Cancer - Thomas C. Weiss - (2016/02/05).
- 3 - Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Definition, Statistics, Risk Factors and Treatment - Thomas C. Weiss - (2015/02/20).
- 4 - Acral Melanomas: The Rare Skin Cancer that Killed Bob Marley - Cancer Research UK - (2014/08/20).
- 5 - Anyone Can Get Skin Cancer and the Sun is Not the Only Cause of Melanoma - National Cancer Institute - (2014/06/28).
- 6 - Effects of Sunlight and Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) on Human Skin - Disabled World - (2013/03/07).
- 7 - Alternative to Amputation for Patients with Advanced Skin Cancer - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - (2011/12/16).
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