- by Dr Murali Subramanian Oncology India
- 4 Shares
- Nov 03 2017
Skin Cancer-Symptoms,Causes and Risks
Non-melanoma skin cancer symptoms
An unusual skin growth or sore that doesn't go away may be the first indication of a non-melanoma skin cancer. Skin cancer may initially appear as a nodule, rash or irregular patch on the surface of the skin. These spots may be raised and may ooze or bleed easily. As the cancer grows, the size or shape of the visible skin mass may change and the cancer may grow into deeper layers of the skin. It may be difficult to differentiate one form of skin cancer from another, so consult a dermatologist if you notice suspicious or evolving marks on the skin.
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole or skin lesion or a change in an existing mole.
Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face ears and neck; or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly flat lesion that may itch, bleed and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.
When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCD rule that tells you the signs to watch for:
Asymmetry—the shape of one half doesn't match the other
Border—edges are ragged or blurred
Color—uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
Diameter—a significant change in size (greater than 6mm)
What causes skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the U.S. and the number of cases continues to rise. It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. This rapid growth results in tumors, which are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are less serious types and make up 95% of all skin cancers. Also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early. Melanoma, made up of abnormal skin pigment cells called melanocytes, is the most serious form of skin cancer and causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Left untreated, it can spread to other organs and is difficult to control.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime.
Cumulative sun exposure causes mainly basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, while episodes of severe sunburns, usually before age 18, can cause melanoma later in life. Other less common causes are repeated X-ray exposure, scars from burns or disease and occupational exposure to certain chemicals.
Who is at risk for skin cancer?
Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have fair or freckled skin that burns easily, light eyes and blond or red hair. Darker skinned individuals are also susceptible to all types of skin cancer, although their risk is substantially lower.
Aside from complexion, other risk factors include having a family history or personal history of skin cancer, having an outdoor job and living in a sunny climate. A history of severe sunburns and an abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles are risk factors unique to melanoma.
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