The skin is the largest organ in the body. Skin cancer is the most common of all human cancers.
The abnormal growth of skin cells — most often develops on skin exposed to the sun. But this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight.
There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and Melanomas.
The skin features that frequently develop are listed below.
Basal cell carcinoma
- An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for several weeks
- A reddish, raised patch or irritated area that may crust or itch, but rarely hurts
- A shiny pink, red, pearly white, or translucent bump
- A pink growth with an elevated border and crusted central indentation
- A scar-like, white, yellow, or waxy area, often with a poorly defined border
Squamous cell carcinoma
- A wart-like growth
- A persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that may bleed easily
- An open sore that persists for weeks
- A raised growth with a rough surface and a central depression
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
- Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump
Factors that may increase your risk of skin cancer include:
- Fair skin: Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer. However, having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair and light-colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you’re much more likely to develop skin cancer than is a person with darker skin.
- A history of sunburns: Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are a risk factor.
- Immune suppression: Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as viruses, diseases or immune suppression therapy associated with organ transplantation, may increase skin cancer risks.
- Moles: Most moles are harmless and may never develop into cancer, but having a large number of moles may increase the risk for developing melanoma. The presence of dysplastic nevi (moles that may resemble melanoma) may also increase risk, by 10 percent. Although most dysplastic nevi will not develop into melanomas, a small percentage may, and individuals with these types of moles should see a dermatologist regularly for thorough skin exams.
- A family history of skin cancer: If one of your parents or a sibling has had skin cancer, you may have an increased risk of the disease.
- A personal history of skin cancer: If you developed skin cancer once, you’re at risk of developing it again.
- Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop squamous cell skin cancers, particularly on the lips.
- Chemical exposure: Certain chemicals, including arsenic, industrial tar, coal, paraffin and certain types of oil, may increase the risk for certain types of non-melanoma skin cancers.
- UV exposure: People who work outdoors during the day or who choose to spend much of their leisure time outdoors and are exposed to UV light are at an increased risk. People who choose to use tanning beds increase their risk of skin cancer.
What Is the Treatment for Skin Cancer?
Treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is straightforward. Usually, surgical removal of the lesion is adequate. Malignant melanoma, however, may require several treatment methods, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy or immunotherapy or both. Because of the complexity of treatment decisions, people with malignant melanoma may benefit from the combined expertise of the dermatologist, a cancer surgeon, and a medical oncologist.