It might not get the press like breast cancer or the top billing like lung cancer, but skin cancer happens to be the most common cancer in the US, with about twenty percent of the population having it at some point in their lives.
Similarly, by 2021, more than 100,000 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with some form of the disease, with a mortality estimation of nearly 7,000 people.
What is skin cancer?
So if you are not paying attention to this type of cancer, you might very well regret it.
Sometimes known as malignant melanoma cancer or Keratinocyte cancer, skin cells start growing abnormally and causing a tumor. Moreover, there are many types of Keratinocyte cancer, depending on the cells.
Besides, although it may not be completely preventable, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of contracting it.
Most of the melanoma cancers are squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. Although they are malignant, they are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body if treated early. If not treated early, they can spread to other areas of the body.
Not every type of cancer on the skin is malignant melanoma. However, this type is highly aggressive and actually tends to spread to other parts of the body. If not treated early, this type of cancer can be fatal.
Medical professionals often refer to these changes as dysplasia. And some specific abnormal growth changes that occur in the skin are:
- Abnormal moles, which we have commonly known as dysplastic moles. And which, over time, develop into melanoma.
- Like many cancers, this melanoma begins with precancerous lesions. The lesions are not cancerous, but as the skin changes, they can become cancerous over time.
- Actinic keratosis typically becomes a squamous cell carcinoma. So if you find some brown or red, painful patches that don’t heal quickly, this could be the cause.
- A Mole is essentially skin growth and rarely develops into cancer. Most human bodies have 10 to 30 moles. However, if your mole checks reveal a different or abnormal-looking one, then check with your doctor.
- Dysplastic nevus or abnormal moles are not cancer, but they can be. There may be more than 100 moles with dysplasia. However, these moles are usually irregular in shape and have dents and faded edges.
Did you know that the skin is the largest organ in the body? It has many layers to protect you from sunlight, heat, cold, injuries, and many types of infections.
Many of these are the two main layers that act as guardians: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis has three main types of cells within its layers.
- Squamous epithelial cells
- Basal cell
The dermis is the layer containing blood, hair follicles, and glands. Similarly, the most common cause of this type of cancer is exposure to:
- Ultraviolet (UV) rays from direct sunlight or artificial ultraviolet rays from tanning beds
- And Carcinogenic chemicals
These factors can cause abnormal DNA in skin cells, leading to the growth and development of cancer cells.
When this cancer develops, the type of cells it affects determines the type it is. For example:
- Keratinocyte cancer that begins in the basal cells is called basal cell carcinoma. This is the most common and the slowest growing form.
- Similarly, the one that starts in squamous cells is called squamous cell carcinoma. It usually manifests as red scaly lesions or sores on the skin. This type of cancer is usually not life-threatening, but it can be dangerous if left untreated.
- And finally, one that starts from melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) is called melanoma. This is the most dangerous type of cancer on the skin. It is more likely to spread than basal or squamous. And it has the highest mortality of this disease every year.
Four main types of melanoma
- Superficial melanoma: the most common type of melanoma; lesions are usually flat and irregular in shape, including different shades of black and brown; it can occur at any age.
- Malignant melanoma of the tonsils: Usually affects the elderly and is accompanied by large, flat brown lesions
- Nodular melanoma: It can be dark blue, black, or red-blue, but it may not have any color. It usually starts with an embossed patch
- Acute pulmonary melanoma: the least common type; it usually affects the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or the fingers, and a melanoma nail on toes and fingers.
This cancer can look very different, and the symptoms can vary. Some symptoms are similar to others. Similarly, the most common symptoms include pain in the area of the skin.
- Similarly, if the area does not heal within 4 weeks
- It seems unusual
- Pain, itching, bleeding, or knot that lasts more than 4 weeks
If you have any of the following symptoms or worry about skin abnormalities, then it is our advice that you actually seek medical attention immediately.
- A painful area on your skin that does not go away
The pain is transparent; it has pearly white or bright pink or sometimes red spots. You may feel pain, roughness, and wavy edges.
Pay attention to the areas where the skin is torn (ulcers), and it will not heal within 4 weeks. The reason for this change might be unimaginable.
If the mole is irregular, it is small, slow-growing, bright, and can be pink or red.
- Eczema on the skin
These red spots can also be itchy. This may be due to other non-cancerous skin conditions. However, check to confirm.
Changes in freckles can be a sign of another type of cancer on the skin known as melanoma.
What steps can you take to reduce risks associated with this form of cancer?
Some types of skin cancer have a genetic component, but there are many steps you can take to prevent it from developing.
Get screened for it
While you don’t have to worry about your skin, we recommend that you have a dermatologist for this cancer screening every year. They will be able to see areas of the body that you cannot easily skin check.
Dermatologists can also evaluate whether cancerous moles and other skin growths are prevalent and that are skin cancer spots.
If the mole appears malignant, it’s best to remove it quickly to prevent spreads to other parts of the body.
Not all sunscreens are equal on the sunscreen shelf; the thing that matters the most is SPF. If you are exposed to direct sunlight for a long time, choose sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher. Similarly, if you are prone to burns, increasing your SPF can improve your skin coverage.
A wide range of sun creams can protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays have a long wavelength and can cause burns and this cancer. The short wavelength of UVB rays can cause burns, blemishes, and wrinkles.
Besides, it would help if you reapplied the sunscreen every 2 hours. And if you get wet, reapply it again.
Make sure you buy sunscreen for a long duration. If there is no expiration date, then the rule of thumb is that it is good up to three years from the date of purchase.
Best practices when you are in the sun
The sun is a reliable source that can damage the skin in just 15 minutes. Therefore, it is important to do everything possible to protect the skin while absorbing these rays.
Here are some good days in the sun safety tips:
- Look for the shadows. If you spend your time outdoors, look for a cool place to avoid direct sunlight. This is especially important between 10 am and 3 pm when the sun emits the strongest ultraviolet rays.
- Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses protect not only eyesight but also the delicate skin around the eyes. Most sunglasses block UVA and UVB rays. Make sure the pair of glasses you buy protects you from both types of rays.
- Please wear appropriate clothing. If you go out in the sun for a long time, we recommend that you consider wearing long sleeves and long pants. Look for clothes made with breathable, lightweight fabrics to keep you cool.
- Wear a hat. Facial skin is fragile, so wear a hat to protect you from skin cancer on the scalp. A hat with a wide brim offers maximum protection from the sun and is very fashionable when wearing a hat.
Avoid Tanning beds
Using a tanning bed while avoiding the sun will not reduce the risk of UV damage or melanoma staging.
In fact, according to more than 20 studies, starting tanning equipment before age 30 increases the risk of skin melanoma by 75%.
These findings are supported by another study, which concluded that indoor tanning is carcinogenic to humans. According to this study, a tan bed increases the risk of melanoma without burns.
When to see the dermatologist
The best way to prevent Keratinocyte cancer is to stay alert and monitor the skin. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is recommended that you contact your doctor:
- Moles with uneven edges
- The rapid and sudden growth of the skin
- Indelible patches of scaly red skin
- Sudden pain, tenderness, or itching
- Bleeding or bleeding skin spots
Who is at risk?
There are different types of cancer on the skin, but most often, they have the same risk factors:
- If there is a prolonging in exposure to the sun’s UV rays
- You are 40 years and over
- Having a family history of Keratinocyte cancer
- Fair complexion
- You have a recent organ transplant
- Similarly, young people and people with dark skin can still get it.
There are several effective ways to treat this melanoma at the skin cancer clinic. The choice of treatment depends on the tumor’s location, size: microscopic characteristics, and the patient’s general health.
For superficial basal cell carcinoma, different creams, gels, and solutions are available.
These stimulate the body’s immune system to interfere with cancer growth. However, the disadvantage of topical medications is that there is no tissue to test to determine if the tumor has been completely removed.
Electrode Use and Curettage (EDC)
Local anesthetics help paralyze the tumor area, and then they repeatedly scrape it with a sharp instrument (curettage). Finally, they use the tip of the edges with electro-acupuncture.
This method is that it is fast, simple, and relatively inexpensive. The downside is that the scars are usually a bit ugly, and the recurrence rate can be up to 15%.
They paralyze the area around the tumor with a local anesthetic. They then remove the tissue containing the tumor and suture the edge of the wound.
The advantage of this treatment method is that the cure rate is greater than 90%. And they can take a biopsy to confirm that the successful removal of the entire tumor.
Moreover, the resulting scars are generally more aesthetically acceptable. However, this option has more complications and is more costly than EDC.
Here they anesthetize the area locally, and the surgeon removes visible tumors from the light edges of normal tissues.
Similarly, they immediately examine the tissue under a microscope, re-excise the area showing the residual tumor under the microscope, and check the edges.
This cycle continues until no more tumors are seen for cancers that require normal tissue preservation, cancers with uncertain tumor margins, and recurrent. This more complex and expensive option is the best treatment.
A high dose of radiation is given to the tumor and the small surrounding skin area over 10-15 cycles.
This form of treatment is useful for people who are not suitable for surgery. The advantage of radiation therapy is that it does not include amputation.
The downside to this expensive alternative is that you cannot test the treatment site to confirm that the entire tumor is gone, and the radiation scar usually worsens over time. Therefore, they usually reserve it for older patients.
Other types of skin cancer treatments include cryosurgery, which destroys tissue through freezing—Photodynamic therapy (PDT), which uses drug therapy. Also, blue light destroys cancerous tissue and destroys lesions by removing the upper layers of the skin.
Common Keratinocyte cancer questions and answers
What are the common types of this cancer?
- Basal and Squamous Cell
- Kaposi Sarcoma.
- Lymphoma of the Skin.
- Merkel Cell
What are the most common causes of cancer on the skin?
Ultraviolet (UV) exposure (most commonly sun exposure) is the most common cause of this disease. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more common in the elderly.
Who is most susceptible to melanoma?
The following people have the highest risk of this cancer: Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more common in the elderly. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers among adolescents, especially between the ages of 25 and 29.
How dangerous is squamous cell carcinoma?
Flat epithelial skin tumors are invasive but usually not life-threatening. Untreated squamous cells can grow or spread to other parts of the body, causing serious complications, for example, skin cancer on the face and nose.
This type of cancer requires vigilance, including checking for moles and painful spots that do not heal quickly.
For example, a lady with a rash between breasts might want to get a dermatologist to look at it if it does not heal quickly or if the typical home remedy like Vaseline for rash under the breast fails to work.