Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is an increasingly common condition, and is partly credited to increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Increased exposure is mainly due to the recent popularity of sun tanning or sun bathing.  Lighter-skinned individuals are more vulnerable to this disease.

There are many types of skin cancer, but the most common types are:

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
These are the most common types of skin cancer; it can cause disfiguring and is very destructive. There is greater risk for individuals who have a family history of the disease and those with cumulative exposure to UV light through sunlight, or in the past has been exposed to chemicals especially arsenic. Most basal cell carcinoma can be removed surgically by dermasurgeons.  A common method of surgery is electrodessication and curretage (ED&C) where the tumor is scraped out with a curette and cauterizing the base and the margins and the wound is left to heal by itself.  The cure rate and cosmetic result for this treatment is excellent especially with concave areas. Other treatment for these types of skin cancer includes topical chemotherapy, x-ray, cryosurgery, photodynamic therapy, or topical immune enhancement drugs such as imiquimod.  This type of skin cancer is rarely life-threatening but if left untreated can cause disfiguring, bleeding, and produce local destruction in some parts such as the eye, ear, nose and lip.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
These types of skin cancer are a malignant tumor of the epithelium that shows squamous cell differentiation.  It is a form of cancer of the carcinoma type that may occur in many different organs including the skin, the mouth, esophagus, lungs and cervix. Squamous cell carcinoma is usually developed in the epithelial layer of the skin and sometimes various mucous membranes of the body.  These types of cancer can be seen the skin, lips, inside the mouth, throat and esophagus, and is characterized by red scaly skin that becomes an open sore.  Smoking is a significant risk factor of this disease.  Other risk factors include sun exposure, radiation therapy, exposure to carcinogens, chronic skin irritation or inflammation, genetics diseases, and presence of premalignant lesions. To diagnose this disease, a biopsy is done where a sample is taken and examined under a microscope, and if found to be cancerous, surgery is done to remove it.

Melanoma
These types of skin cancer are the most lethal form of skin cancer.  Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes.  Melanocytes predominantly occur in the skin but can also be found elsewhere, especially in the eye. The large majority of melanomas originate in the skin. As with most forms of cancer, early detection of the disease gives a patient a much better chance of survival. It has been found in studies that exposure to ultraviolet radiation is one of the major contributors to the development of melanoma. Other factors are mutations in or total loss of tumor suppressor genes. Use of sunbeds (with deeply penetrating UVA rays) has been linked to the development of skin cancers, including melanoma. A family history of melanoma greatly increases a person’s risk. Any mole that is irregular in color or shape should be examined by a doctor to determine if it is a malignant melanoma, the most serious and life-threatening form of skin cancer. The diagnosis of melanoma requires experience, as early stages may look identical to harmless moles or not have any color at all.  Treatment of this type of skin cancer includes surgery, medication or chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies.

All of these types of skin cancer are the most common and should not be taken lightly. When there is doubt of having the signs or symptoms of cancer, seeing the doctor is advised for proper diagnosis and treatment if ever confirmed, this will give the patient greater chance of survival.

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