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Skin Cancer

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Overview

Skin cancer is a form of cancer in which there is an abnormal growth of skin cells. Melanoma, the skin cancer is more common in men than in women. It is more likely to occur in fair people and who are more exposed to sunlight.

Types of Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma

  • This type of cancer arises from the outermost layer of the skin i.e. lower part of the epidermis. This is the most common form of skin cancer and is less harmful.
  • This type of cancer is most likely to develop due to exposure to the sun, frequently in people with fair skin (less melanin) and less likely in dark skin people.
  • It appears as a waxy bump, skin-colored round patch of skin.
  • Occurs in areas that are exposed to the sun such as the head, neck, arms, or face.
  • Early diagnosis is important as it can grow deep and cause damage by penetrating the bones and nerves.

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • This type of cancer arises from the middle layer of the skin. It is the second most common form of cancer and if not treated it may be life threatening.
  • It appears as a firm red bump, scaly surface.
  • It forms on skin parts that are exposed to the sun such as the face, neck, arms, back, and chest.

Melanoma

  • This is the least common form of skin cancer and arises from melanocytes i.e. pigment-producing cells. This is most likely to spread and is harmful if remains untreated.
  • It may develop on an already existing mole on the skin or appear anywhere as a dark spot on the skin.
  • It appears as a dark-brownish spot.
  • It occurs on the finger or toenails, palms, or mucous membrane lining in the nose, mouth, anus, or vagina.
  • Early diagnosis of melanoma is very crucial as it is the most harmful type of skin cancer.
  • Superficial spreading, Nodular, Lentigo, Acral lentiginous. 

Causes

Skin cancer occurs due to a mutation in the DNA of skin cells. This mutation causes skin cells to grow abnormally and become cancerous. Exposure to ultraviolet-radiations from the sun is a cause of mutations in the skin cells. Other factors responsible for the skin cancer are exposure to toxic substances or a weak immune system.

Risk Factors

Exposure to UV- radiation

Increased risk of basal cell carcinoma in people who have been exposed to radiation therapy.

Exposure to toxic substances

Increased risk of skin cancer in people exposed to arsenic.

Weak Immune system

The risk is higher in people with weak immune system, especially people with HIV/AIDS.

Family/personal history of skin cancer

If any of your first degree relative had skin cancer then there is increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Fair skin

The chances of developing skin cancer is higher in fair skin people as lesser amount of melanin offers reduced protection from UV rays.

Sunburn history

Sunburns increases the risk of skin cancer in adults.

Signs & symptoms

Change in the size, color, or shape of the mole

New unusual growth, mole, dark spots on the skin

Unusual colored spot

Moles that prickle or tingle

Moles that exude blood or crust over

Dark discoloration below a nail

Diagnosis

Skin biopsy : If the doctor thinks that a suspicious area might be skin cancer, the area (or part of it) will be removed and sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. .

Shave (tangential) biopsy : For a shave biopsy, the doctor shaves off the top layers of the skin with a small surgical blade

Punch biopsy : For a punch biopsy, the doctor uses a tool that looks like a tiny round cookie cutter to remove a deeper sample of skin.

Excisional and incisional biopsies : To examine a tumor that may have grown into deeper layers of the skin, the doctor may use an excisional (or less often, an incisional) biopsy.

  • An excisional biopsy removes the entire tumor.
  • An incisional biopsy removes only a portion of the tumor.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy : For an FNA biopsy, the doctor uses a syringe with a thin, hollow needle to remove very small fragments of the lymph node.

Surgical (excisional) lymph node biopsy : If an FNA doesn't find cancer in a lymph node but the doctor still suspects the cancer has spread there, the lymph node may be removed by surgery and examined.

Imaging tests  : If your doctor thinks you might be at risk for the cancer spreading outside the skin, imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans of the area might be done.

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