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SKIN CANCER

Skin cancer usually develops on parts of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun although it can also occur on skin that are usually hidden from sunlight. The disease has three types:

– Basal cell carcinoma
– Squamous cell carcinoma
– Melanoma

The good news is there are treatments available even for the most severe cases of skin cancer. Early detection and limited exposure to ultraviolet radiation can help keep the disease under control.

Symptoms

Skin cancer can affect all skin tone types, even those with very dark skin. Depending on the type of the cancer, a skin lesion can appear suddenly or slowly.

Basal skin carcinoma is the most common skin cancer and can be treated easily. It does not usually spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms are the following: a waxy or pearly bump on the face, ears and neck or a flat, brown or flesh-colored lesion on the back or chest.

Squamous cell carcinoma can be treated easily if detected early, although it can spread itself unlike the basal skin carcinoma. Symptoms are the following: a firm, red nodule on one's face, ears, lips, neck, arms and hands or a flat lesion with scaly skin on the same body parts.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and can cause death to the patient. It can develop on any part of the body. It can appear on normal skin or existing moles that turns out to be malignant. Symptoms are the following: a mole that changes size and color, which may bleed or not. It can also be a large, brownish spot with darker speckles. It can also be a small lesion with irregularly-shaped borders, or colored spots in the trunk or limbs.

Causes

The disease occurs when the process of the development of skin cells are malfunctions. New cells can grow out of control and turn into a mass of cancerous cells. The usual culprit for the damage of the DNA, which controls the process, is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Too much UV exposure contributes to the formation of skin cancer.

Other factors such as heredity and exposure to toxic chemicals can also lead to skin cancer.

Risk Factors

The following can increase your chances of having skin cancer:

– Fair skin
– Too much sun exposure
– Frequent sunburns
– Warm and sunny climates
– Precancerous skin lesions
– Moles
– History of skin cancer in the family
– Exposure to environmental chemicals
– Delicate skin
– Age

Diagnosis

You should consult your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual changes in your skin. Early detection is important when treating skin cancer. There are two stages of the disease, local (which affects only the skin) and metastatic (cancer has spread beyond the skin). Your doctor will perform a biopsy and send it to the lab for tests.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the size, depth, type and location of the lesions. Usual treatment includes surgery and topical medications. If your doctor decides that you need additional treatment, you may need to undergo the following:

– Freezing, in which your cancer will be destroyed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen
– Excisional surgery
– Laser therapy
– Mohs surgery
– Radiation therapy
– Curettage and electrodessication
– Chemotherapy

Prevention

Skin cancer can be prevented by:

– Avoiding too much sun exposure, especially between 10 am to 4 pm
– Wearing sunscreen and protective clothing
– Avoiding tanning beds
– Having regular skin exams

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