Skin cancer Skin cancer is the most pervasive variation of cancer among white populations, both in and outside the UK. The majority of skin cancer cases are easy to treat and aren’t that dangerous, but there exists a specific type, melanoma, which is hard to deal with unless timely detected. Statistics point out that cases of melanoma in the UK have multiplied faster than any other widespread type of cancer in the last 25 years.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Skin cancer manifests itself in three distinct subtypes that are accompanied by different symptoms.The first one is known as Basal cell carcinoma (BCC). It targets certain cells positioned in the top layer of the skin. It does not develop rapidly and hardly spreads to other parts of the body. Any sun-exposed bodily area can fall victim to BCC. This type of skin cancer usually leads to the formation of a tiny, painless, pink or brownish-grey lump that has a flat surface, blood vessels and a waxy or a pearl-like border.

The formation may increase in size and indent at its center. The second subtype is referred to as Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). It affects another type of cells from the top layer of the skin. It often targets the face and its primary symptom is an area of thickened, scaly skin that develops into a painless, hard lump, which is reddish-brown in colour and has an irregular edge. The lump transforms into a persisting ulcer and fails to recover.

BCC and SCC are both instances of non-melanoma skin cancer.They normally develop slowly, appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin and seldom spread further. It is quite the contrary with melanoma skin cancer as it can occur practically anywhere on the body and is seriously threatening. The condition has a lot to do with common moles, which is why alterations in the appearance of your moles need to be checked by your GP. Malignant melanoma frequently spreads far more quickly than the other two variations of skin cancer via the bloodstream.

Malignant melanomas target the cells which produce the colouring of the skin. When not treated successfully, these can potentially spread to the liver, the lungs or the brain. It is usually recognized by the quick-growing, irregular, dark-coloured spots appearing on previously normal skin. This subtype can also be detected through changes in the size and colour of already existing moles; it is also likely for moles to form irregular edges, to bleed, itch, crust or redden in case of malignant melanoma. Growing, changing, brown or black marks on an adult’s skin, which cannot be covered by the blunt end of a pencil, have to be seen by a doctor.

Sometimes, melanoma may surface along with swollen lymph glands; it can also pop up in unusual places, such as the sole of the foot, the mouth or the eye (though rarely). If the diagnosis is confirmed, additional tests will be carried out to check whether the cancer has reached other parts of the body, too. These may involve X-rays and scans to examine the liver, the lungs and the brain. Specialists perform a biopsy to find out whether a suspicious formation is skin cancer as well as its precise subtype. Sometimes only a tiny portion of the formation is extracted, while at other times the whole of it is removed.

Skin Cancer Causes

While it has been indeed proven that people with lighter skin are far more vulnerable to all skin cancer variations, the basic cause of skin cancer remains over-exposure to the harmful UV rays of the sun. Few people are aware that suntan is definitely not healthy and that it actually signals skin damage. Specialists claim that the UV radiation we are exposed to via sunlight leads to indiscernible cell damage, which increases the risk of cancer. The non-melanoma types of skin cancer stem from prolonged exposure to sunlight in the course of many years. On the other hand, it is short periods of intense exposure (like the one a person gets on his/her two-week vacation) that account for the greater part of melanoma skin cancer cases. Instances of any type of skin cancer among dark-skinned people are very low. Skin cancer affects mostly the neck, the shoulders and the back in males as opposed to the legs and the arms in females.

Diagnosing Skin Cancer

A basic skin examination performed by your GP or a hospital specialist is normally enough to detect skin cancer. Skin cancer is sometimes required to be extracted via an ordinary operation or a biopsy. The procedure is essential for both its lab testing and its treatment. Some other routine tests, among which X-rays and scans, may be necessary, too.

Skin Cancer Treatments

The common solution for non-melanoma skin cancers is a basic surgical intervention performed under a local anaesthetic. It aims at excising the affected area. Another option in case of a smaller cancer is cryosurgery: applying liquid nitrogen on the tumour to freeze and terminate the cancer cells. Some instances of BCC respond well to photodynamic therapy. It makes use of certain cream that sensitises the tumour and subsequent exposure to high intensities of light to destroy it.

Where melanoma is present and cancerous cells have appeared outside the skin layer, chemotherapy or biological treatments, such as that with interferon, may be initiated to rid the body of the harmful cells. Unfortunately, facts are irrefutable: 1,800 people in the UK die from this treacherous disease each year. Nevertheless, nearly 80 per cent of men and over 90 per cent of women suffering from melanoma skin cancer deal successfully with the condition for five years after the beginning of their treatment.