There are three types of skin cancer:
- Squamos cell carcinoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
Melanoma is the least common skin cancer, but it is the most dangerous and causes the most skin cancer-related deaths. It begins in the melanin-producing cells in the skin’s epidermis (its top layer). Melanin is a pigment, and gives skin its colour. Melanoma can spread to neighbouring cells at a rapid speed, creating malignant cancer cells in other parts of the body. So, it is important to detect melanoma early.
- Too much exposure to UV radiation. UV rays emitted by the sun and other sources such as tanning booths can damage skin cells and make them grow abnormally
- Sometimes a hereditary disorder can contribute to the development of melanoma
The melanin produced by cells (called melanocytes) protects the skin from sun damage.
The less melanin the cells produce, the fairer the skin and the more prone to cell damage. So, fair-skinned people are more at risk of contracting melanoma or another type of skin cancer. People living in areas with a higher level of UV radiation – in places along the earth’s equator, for example – are also at a higher risk.
Melanoma appears in the form of a mole, which can either develop suddenly or grow out from within an existing one. It can appear anywhere on the skin, but is often found around the hip and shoulder area. There is also a tendency for men to develop melanoma around the neck and head area and women on the lower legs.
Consult a doctor if your mole:
- Increases in size
- Changes shape or acquires an unusual edge
- Changes colour – becomes darker, pearly, transluscent or multi-coloured
- Itches or becomes painful
- Starts bleeding, becomes crusty or inflamed
Or if the following appears on your skin:
- An open sore that heals and reopens again
- A tender, scaly bump that is rough and pointed
The treatment of melanoma depends on various factors, such as the location and size of the tumour, the patient’s general health, the stage of the melanoma (whether it has spread to other parts of the body etc), and whether ulceration occured in its primary stages.
The most common treatments include:
- Biologic therapy – an alternative treatment, which uses various substances to enhance the body’s immune system and help it fight the cancer
- Chemoimmunotherapy – a new treatment currently being tested. It combines biologic therapy with the use of anti-cancer drugs to help the immune system fight the disease
- Always wear sunscreen SPF 15 or higher when exposed to direct sunlight.
- Avoid tanning booths and sunlamps
- Avoid prolonged exposure to sun during the middle of the day
- Keep a careful eye on any marks on your skin and any odd freckle patterns, new moles or existing moles growing or changing
- Check your skin regularly
Click here for more detailed information on skin cancer and how to check yourself.
Image attribution: Wikimedia: File:Melanoma.jpg, File:Malignant melanoma (1) at thigh Case 01.jpgTags: cancer skin cancer