The occurrence of skin cancers has been increasing in the last several decades. Reasons for the increase in reported cases of skin cancer include the use of UV tanning devices, the depletion of the ozone layer resulting in more UV light from the sun and other environmental factors. Most cancers of the skin aren’t serious if they’re treated in the early stages of the disease. The 3 most reported skin cancers are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. If any of these types of cancer are diagnosed, treatment should be sought immediately.
The most common skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. While it’s rarely life threatening, it can cause significant disfigurement. In Caucasians, the occurrence of basal cell carcinoma is about three in ten people. While this type of cancer is most often found on the face and neck, there has been a recent increase in basal cell cancers on the torso. Treatments for basal cell carcinoma include cryotherapy (freezing), laser surgery, radiation and photo dynamic therapy.
Why don’t we go on with this article. Squamous cell carcinomas can occur in many different organs in the body. As a skin cancer, it’s slow-growing with a significant risk of metastasis to other areas of the body. As with most skin cancers it’s most commonly found on the face and neck. Early symptoms include the appearance of a hard plaque with an opalescent quality, a reddish plaque, a non healing ulcer of the lip with some bleeding, or an ulcerated lesion with hard raised edges. Squamous cell cancer treatments include many of the same therapies as basal cell carcinoma treatments. More advanced squamous cell tumors may require surgical excision or curettage and electrodessication for complete removal.
Melanoma is the most aggressive skin cancer. It has a high rate of metastasis when not diagnosed and treated early. It most often presents as a mole which changes color or size or has an asymmetric shape. Treatment for melanoma is similar to traditional cancer treatments, including surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and biologic therapy.
Basal and squamous cell cancers most often appear on the face and neck, but melanoma is most often found on the torso or arms. Exposure to UV light, either from sunlight or artificial sources, increases the risk for developing skin cancers. People with fair skin are at greatest risk although these cancers can occur in any race.
Skin lesions should be examined by a dermatologist to determine whether they’re cancerous. Patients with more advanced squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma may be referred to an oncologist.
As with any cancer, early treatment is going to be vital to the health and survival of the patient.
More information about skin cancer (Spanish)