The ultimate guide to skin cancer 

Two in every three Australians will get some form of skin cancer by the time they reach 70 – an absolutely frightening statistic.

You may think that here in the UK, where the sun barely shines at times, we’re safe from the sun’s powerful rays but you wouldn’t be more wrong.

Given the seriousness of the situation, here are some facts you may not know about the deadly disease.  

 

Who is most likely to get skin cancer?

The answer is varied but people who:

  1. Have white skin, light hair and blue eyes
  2. Expose themselves for many hours in the sun
  3. Use tanning beds
  4. Live in sunny climates
  5. Reside in high altitudes where solar insolation is high
  6. Have a previous history of skin cancer
  7. Have weak immunity

This doesn’t mean dark-coloured people would never develop skin cancer but they are at a much lower risk.

Cause of skin cancer

Most cases of skin cancer are caused by over-exposure to the sun. The ultra-violet rays outside can damage the DNA of our skin cells, causing the latter to multiply uncontrollably.

Types of skin cancer and symptoms 

Basal cell carcinoma 

This skin cancer affects those cells that produce new ones after the older skin cells die. Basal cell carcinoma affects those parts of the body that are more exposed to the sun – the head, and the neck. 

Symptoms are:

  • pearly white, skin-coloured or red bump
  • blue, black or brown lesion
  • reddish, scaly and flat patches of the skin
  • white, waxy, scar-like lesions

Squamous cell carcinoma

This cancer affects the middle and outer layers of the skin and is caused by over-exposure to the sun. Another major cause behind squamous cell carcinomas is the trend of artificial tanning, which leads to direct contact with radiation full tanning beds. 

The more common symptoms are:

  • red, firm nodules
  • sores with scaly crust
  • new sores forming  on top of old ones,
  • sores around your anal area

Melanoma

This form of skin cancer affects melanocytes. These cells are responsible for making melanin, a pigment of our skin.  It is hard to ascertain what causes melanoma, but long exposure to UV rays and tanning beds can aggravate this condition. 

The most common symptom is a mole or a wart that changes its nature over time. If your wart or mole looks unusual, it may indicate melanoma. Please follow this thumb rule in tracking these changes;

A- Asymmetrical shape of the wart or the mole

B- Irregular Border

C- Changes in colour

D- Changes in diameter

This type of skin cancer is the most dangerous form and is difficult to detect. However, Melanoma doesn’t’ manifest that frequently as the other two skin cancers. If you suspect you have skin cancer, consult cancer specialists like SunDoctors for an expert opinion. 

Treatment

Skin cancers are amenable to treatment, thanks to advances made in modern medical science! Most skin cancer variants can even be cured if found in time. Some of the treatments are:

Radiotherapy

In many cases, the skin cancer is treated by directing a high-energy beam (X-ray/ photons/ gamma rays) to the affected body part. This way, skin cancer cells are destroyed, and the spread of this disease to other body parts is halted.

Chemotherapy

You may be required to apply a lotion or a cream on your affected body part to stop cancer’s growth. Alternatively, you might be asked to take some medicines or capsules.

Mohs surgery

This treatment is suitable for Melanoma. Your surgeon removes the cancer cells layer by layer and observes them under the microscope. He continues this process until no more cancer cells are left. 

Cryotherapy

The wound left by surgery is healed by liquid nitrogen. This way, the cancer cells are stopped from spreading further. 

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A southern girl living in the North, obsessed with all things true crime and any reading material I can get my hands on. Serial tea drinker, and I also hate geese.
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