If you, or someone you love, has been diagnosed with cancer, you may not know what to do. Here's a list of tips and ways to cope with a cancer diagnosis.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when cancer cells form in skin tissue. Mutations or damage to the DNA of skin cells can stimulate abnormal cell growth, which can result in the formation of cancer cells. Skin cancer is more common than any other form of cancer and accounts for almost half of all cancer diagnoses in the U.S. alone.
Causes of Skin Cancer:
Since it begins in the epidermis, a common cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure from sunlight and other sources, such as tanning beds.
Not all skin cancers occur from UV exposure, as some can form in areas that are rarely exposed (between the toes, under fingernails, or the genitals). Contact with toxic substances or a weakened immune system (HIV/AIDs, immunosuppressant drugs, or leukemia) can be causes in these cases.
People with light skin, a history of sunburns, high levels of sun exposure (those who live in sunny or high altitude climates), moles, and a personal or familial history of skin cancer are most commonly prone to this form of cancer.
What Are The Types of Skin Cancer?
The three main forms of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma - forms in the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis.
Squamous cell carcinoma - forms in the flat cells that make up the skin's surface.
Melanoma - forms in the cells that make the pigment melanin, which gives color to our eyes, skin, and hair.
Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma:
Basal cell carcinoma generally occurs on sun-exposed areas of skin such as the face or scalp.
- Can be a bump or growth that is pearl-like or waxy in appearance.
- Can appear as a flat lesion that is either brown, scar-like, or flesh colored.
Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
Squamous Cell Carcinoma generally occurs on sun-exposed skin such as the face or scalp.
- Can be a red bump that is hard to the touch.
- Can appear as a flat, scaled, or encrusted lesion.
Symptoms of Melanoma:
Melanoma may occur anywhere on the body and in existing moles.
- Melanoma affects men most commonly on the torso, neck, and head.
- Melanoma affects women most commonly on the lower legs.
- Melanoma can occur in people of all skin tones.
- May appear as a brown spot with darker areas.
- Melanoma may be indicated in a mole that changes in size, texture, color, or begins to bleed.
- May also occur as a red, blue, black, or white asymmetrical lesion.
- May also form a dark lesion on the hands or feet, or in the mouth, nose, mucous membranes, genitals or anus.
Less Common Forms of Skin Cancer:
- Kaposi Sarcoma forms in the blood vessels of the skin and occurs primarily in people with weakened immune systems. Red or purple areas on the skin can be a sign of this form of cancer.
- Merkel Cell Carcinoma occurs primarily on sun-exposed areas of the body and can appear as shiny, firm nodules in hair follicles or underneath the skin.
- Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma is an aggressive but rare form of cancer that occurs in the skin's oil glands. It appears as firm nodules that can develop anywhere on the body but most commonly on the eyelids.
Diagnosis of Skin Cancer:
See your doctor if you are concerned about any changes in your skin, moles or existing moles. If your doctor sees a need, a skin biopsy may be conducted. This is when a sample of the affected area is removed and examined under a microscope.
The ABC's of Skin Cancer:
Asymmetry: Is the mole irregular in shape?
Border: Are the edges of the mole uneven or faded?
Color: Is the mole different colors, or differing shades of one color?
Diameter: Is the mole larger than a pencil eraser?
Treatment of Skin Cancer:
Skin cancer, while the most common form of cancer, is easily treated if detected early. Treatments include:
- Freezing or surgically removing the affected area
- Curettage (the scraping of cells)
- Mohs micrographic surgery
- Laser or radiation therapy
- Chemotherapy can also be used to treat more advanced skin cancer
Additional Resources for Skin Cancer:
For more information about cancer, contact the National Cancer Institute at (800) 4-CANCER.
For extensive support and treatment resources, visit the American Cancer Society's website.
For information on counseling, financial assistance, support groups and more, visit Cancer Care.
Skin Cancer Foundation - educates the public and the medical profession about skin cancer, its prevention by means of sun protection, the need for early detection, and prompt, effective treatment. It is the only international organization devoted solely to combating the world’s most common cancer, now occurring at epidemic levels.
Skin Cancer Awareness Foundation - provides evidence-based, quality skin cancer education to our children and youth in an effort to decrease the incidence of skin cancer
The World Skin Cancer Foundation - educates the public regarding the cause of the majority of skin cancer cases: unprotected sun exposure.
Shade Foundation of America - goal of the non-profit is to eradicate melanoma through the education of children and the community in the prevention and detection of skin cancer and the promotion of sun safety.