Skin cancer is a condition that can vary in seriousness, from minor to life threatening. There are multiple types of skin cancer and these may develop on any location of the body, even in places with low sun exposure. A significant proportion of skin cancers can be prevented by simple behaviors and habits, such as using a regular sunscreen and limiting time spent in the sun.
What is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer occurs when the cells of the skin (the epidermis, dermis, or subcutaneous fat) begin to grow abnormally. The specific type of skin cancer will take their name from the variant of skin cell from which they originate. For example, a basal cell carcinoma comes from cells in the lower area of the epidermis, called the basal layer. A melanoma forms from the pigment cells in the skin, called melanocytes.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are some relatively common variants of skin cancer, including:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma – accounts for roughly 85% of all skin cancers
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – accounts for around 10% of all skin cancers
- Malignant Melanoma – accounts for around 5% of all skin cancers
It is important to understand that ‘common’ does not equate with high-risk. In fact, the uncommon skin cancers can be the most dangerous. For example, melanomas are the leading cause of death from skin cancer, even though they account for less than five percent of all skin cancers. Basal cell carcinomas tend to be localised growths. It is very rare for these lesions to be the cause of death, although if left, may result in significant harm.
Other skin conditions are related to skin cancer because they can be hallmarks or pre-conditions for the development of the disease. For instance, an actinic keratosis is a rough and scaly area of skin in a region of the body that has had prolonged sun exposure over many years.
Treatment of Skin Cancer
There are a number of ways that skin cancer is managed. The type of treatment offered depends upon the type of skin cancer, its size and location on the body. Treatment options include excision of the lesion, curettage and cauterisation, cryotherapy or freezing of the skin, radiotherapy, laser treatment and photodynamic therapy.
It is important for people who are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer to have regular visits with a medical professional experienced in the detection and managment of these lesions. Higher risk people have fairer skin, have had a skin cancer removed before, or have a strong family history of melanoma, and/or have spent many years in the sun.
If you have any questions or concerns about skin cancer contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a dermatologist. Contact us today.