Skin Cancer – The Most Prevalent of All Cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year. Fair-skinned people who sunburn easily are at a particularly high risk for developing skin cancer. Other less important factors include repeated medical and industrial x-ray exposure, scarring from diseases or burns, occupational exposure to compounds such as coal tar and arsenic and family history.
When detected early and treated, most skin cancers can be cured. The first sign can be a growing bump, a changing mole, or a dry and scaly patch on your skin. The key is knowing your skin.
Actinic Keratoses (AK)
Actinic keratoses or solar keratoses are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer. They are small scaly spots more commonly found on the face, ears, neck, lower arms and back of the hands. It can be treated by cryotherapy (freezing), topical chemotherapy (applying a cream or lotion), chemical peeling, dermabrasion, laser surgery, curettage, photodynamic therapy (a chemical is applied to the skin prior to exposure to a light source) , or other dermatologic surgical procedures.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
This is the most common type of skin cancer and appears frequently on the head, neck and hands as a small, fleshy bump. Nodule, or red patch. Other parts of the body may be affected as well. Basal cell carcinomas, frequently found in fair-skinned people, can take many months or years to grow. Untreated, the cancer often will begin to bleed, crust over, heal and repeat the cycle. It can extend below the skin to the bone and nerves, causing considerable local damage.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma is typically located on the rim of the ear , face, lips and mouth. This cancer may appear as a bump, or as a red scaly patch, SCC can develop into large masses and become invasive. This form of cancer can metastasize, therefore, it is important to get early treatment.
Malignant melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Every year, an estimated 8,000 Americans will die from melanoma; it is projected that greater than 108,000 Americans will develop melanoma annually. Melanoma begins in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the dark protective pigment called melanin which makes the skin tan. Since the melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black; although, it can also be red or white. Melanoma can metastasize making early detection and treatment essential. Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole or another dark spot in the skin. Any changing mole must be examined by a dermatologist. Early melanoma can be removed while still in the curable stage.