Skip to main content

Key Information About Skin Cancer

Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Overview

Skin cancer occurs when the body does not repair damage to the DNA inside skin cells, allowing the cells to divide and grow uncontrollably.

The incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades.

Currently, between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among light skinned individuals. It is the commonest cancer in the United States and in Australia. Each year, about one million people are diagnosed with this cancer. In 85 percent of these cases, the skin damage leading to the cancer occurs before an individual is 18.

— Ananya Mandal, MD

Types

Actinic Keratoses (AK)

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer, and we think unfortunately rates are still going up due to high levels of unprotected skin exposure and people are still using tanning beds.

— Dr. Elizabeth Hale, Dermatologist, Senior Vice President of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Causes

People with a family history of skin cancer are generally at a higher risk of developing the disease.

People with fair skin and a northern European heritage appear to be most susceptible.

Hypertension medicine hydrochlorothiazide is associated with an increased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer, found a study conducted in February 2021. It was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

You may develop skin cancer later in life, if you:

  • had severe sunburn or blistering as a child
  • have been exposed to sunlight all your life
  • use tanning beds or sunbeds
  • have a history of severe skin damage, e.g. burnt skin
  • have a history of moles on your skin
  • have been exposed to certain chemicals like coal tar, soot, petrol products, etc
  • have had radiotherapy in the past
  • have a weak immune system from taking certain medications that suppress your system.
  • have a rare inherited condition like albinism or xeroderma pigmentosa.

If left untreated, some actinic keratoses can develop into squamous cell skin cancers.

Symptoms

Symptoms of skin cancer are: small lumps or scar-like changes on the skin which do not heal; small, often painless, sore with raised borders (ulcer) on the skin; a patch of scaly eczema; a sore that will not heal or that develops into a tumour; an existing mole which begins to change colour, increase in size or bleed; the mole may itch, with sores or reddening in the surrounding area; and a new mole develops with ragged edges and uneven colours, varying from brown or black to blue or orange.

On the surface, many people may not see signs of skin cancer but with the VISIA UV camera system, UV photographs are capable of revealing existing skin damage caused by UV light exposure which is normally invisible to the naked eye.

According to doctors, lumps under the armpits could be indicative of skin cancer and if you notice these even remotely but for a prolonged period of time, it is advisable to get the same checked and treated before the cancer becomes metastatic.

Diagnosis

Dr Suchitra Chinthapalli, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics, says skin cancer can unfortunately “be tricky to spot due to its many forms”.

Scroll to Continue

If your doctor suspects skin cancer they may refer you to a dermatologist. The specialist should be able to confirm the diagnosis by carrying out a physical examination. They may also perform a biopsy.

A tool, created by researchers Kumar Abhishek, Jeremy Kawahara, and Ghassan Hamarneh at Simon Fraser University, predicts appropriate clinical management steps based on an image of a diseased area of skin.

Some research studies suggest image recognition technology based on machine learning algorithms can classify skin cancers as successfully as human experts.

Team at Stevens Institute of Technology uses millimeter-wave imaging — the same technology used in airport security scanners — to scan a patient’s skin.

Healthy tissue reflects millimeter-wave rays differently than cancerous tissue, so it’s theoretically possible to spot cancers by monitoring contrasts in the rays reflected back from the skin.

Millimeter-wave rays harmlessly penetrate about 2mm into human skin.

This imaging technology provides a clear 3D map of scanned lesions.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the location, type, and severity of the disease. Commonly used treatments are: chemotherapy; removal of affected cells or tissues through surgery; immunotherapy; killing or freezing cancer cells in liquid nitrogen; and application of ointments or creams on scars and patches.

A research study presented on December 3 2019 at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting suggests high dose rate brachytherapy may be an option for some people with skin cancer.

The main type of radiation used for the treatment of skin cancers are x-rays. Low energy x-rays (orthovoltage x-rays) do not penetrate very deep into the body and transmit most of their energy into the skin and are therefore used for the treatment of skin cancers.

In 2021, a research study carried out at Tampere University in Finland discovered that the expression of an allergy-related receptor chain for proinflammatory IL-13 cytokine (IL-13Ra1) protects against experimental skin cancer.

Patients with non-melanoma skin cancer achieved promising antitumor activity following treatment with RP1 and nivolumab, according to findings from the phase 2 IGNYTE trial (NCT03767348) that were presented at 2022 Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancers Symposium.

key-information-about-skin-cancer

Prevention

Foods that are rich in beta-carotene (like carrots, mangoes, kale, sweet potatoes, and squash), lutein (like collard greens, spinach, and kale), lycopene (like watermelon, guava, apricots, and tomatoes), selenium (like Brazil nuts, meats, and breads), vitamin A (like sweet potatoes, egg yolks, and some dairy products), vitamin C (like fruits, berries, cereals, and fish), and vitamin E (like nuts and oils) reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Another way to protect yourself from skin cancer is by protecting your skin from getting too much of the sun's ultraviolet light.

It's especially important to avoid getting sunburned, as this increases the risk of melanoma.

Using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing, including a hat with a brim, are good ways to do this.

According to a research study conducted in Sweden in the year 2009, people with obesity who undergo bariatric surgery have a reduced risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma.

Mole mapping allows you to collect accurate information to address any arising issues. Coupled with a physical examination with the dermatologist, it can pick up abnormal spots and lesions which were previously ignored or thought to be normal.

In March 2022, research by the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy suggested that a vaccine stimulating the production of a protein critical to the skin’s antioxidant network could help people bolster their defences against skin cancer.

The research was published in the journal, ‘Journal of Investigate Dermatology’.

key-information-about-skin-cancer

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

Comments

Srikanth R (author) on April 09, 2019:

True; awareness has improved.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 08, 2019:

Awareness of the dangers of sun exposure has improved in recent years. I cringe when I see the sight of burned bodies in a holiday resort.

Related Articles