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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.

Main Document

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.

Melanoma

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.
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

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.

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.

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.

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