Detecting Skin Cancer

Detecting Skin Cancer

           People will be surprised to learn that skin cancer is quite common in the US. However, if the cancer is detected early, it can be treated effectively and thereby reducing the rate of mortality. At the same time, people should also take precautionary measures to ensure that incidences of skin cancer reduce, especially if they are at risk of developing it.

           There are primarily 4 types of skin cancers. They are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

           Melanoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. However, it has a high rate of mortality. From all the cancers prevalent in the US, 2 to 3 percent cases of melanoma are reported. Usually young adults get it, and it common among Caucasian adults aged between 25 years and 29 years. Usually 15 percent of people who get melanoma die.

           Although ultraviolet rays from the sunlight are a cause for melanomas, researchers have not been able to associate chronic exposure to sunlight with melanomas. However, they have found that intermittent but intense exposure is associated with getting melanomas. In addition, there are other factors that come into play which include having fair skin, tendency of the skin to burn instead of tanning, and pigmented naevi. In fact, if the number of pigmented naevi is high, then the chances of getting melanoma is also high. Also, genes play a role.

            A doctor usually diagnoses melanoma depending on the appearance of the lesion. The doctor will look at the shape, size, color and diameter of the lesion along with other symptoms like bleeding, itching or burning. If the doctor suspects melanoma, then a biopsy is done to check of malignancy.

           Basal cell carcinoma usually appears on the head or neck region. It has a characteristic appearance where the lesion is raised with a pearly-white looking border. However, at times it can be colored and then it can end up being mistaken for a melanoma. Sometimes, if the lesion is superficial, then the doctor may think it is dermatitis rather than basal cell carcinoma.

           This type of skin cancer progresses slowly and does not tend to metastasize. However, a biopsy is always required for proper diagnosis. Excising the lesion along with part of the healthy skin is quite an effective way to cure it.

           Squamous cell carcinoma is quite common among elderly people. It is believed that this type of skin cancer occurs due to a lifetime exposure to the radiation from the sun. Usually this skin cancer occurs at a site that previously had pain, ulceration, erythema or induration. Just like basal cell carcinoma, even squamous cell carcinoma occurs usually on the head and neck region, but it can also occur on the hands, forearms, upper part of the trunk and lower parts of the legs.

           The lesion can be nodular in appearance with a pink or reddish-brown color. It does not have a definite edge as what is seen in basal cell carcinoma. Biopsy is necessary to make a confirmed diagnosis. Usually small lesions can be surgically removed. However, this type of skin cancer progresses very fast and has the tendency to metastasize to the lymph nodes, liver or lungs. If the cancer metastasizes, then the 5-year survival is just 34 percent.

Detecting Skin Cancer