What causes skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a serious medical condition. The words alone bring fear and uncertainty. Cutting edge diagnostics and treatments are of the utmost importance and your dermatologist is the professional you need to rely on for your care. Early detection and proper diagnosis is key. It is not completely known what causes skin cancer.
Excessive exposure to sunlight is the single most important factor associated with its development. These skin cancers appear most commonly on the face and the arms (the most sun-exposed parts of the body). Fair-skinned people develop skin cancer more frequently than those with darker complexions.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is tissue which grows at an uncontrollable and unpredictable rate. There are three main forms: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. The names refer to the cells of origin of the skin cancer.
How Dangerous is skin cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma enlarge locally from their point of origin and usually do not spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body. If not completely removed, both types will frequently invade and destroy structures in their paths of growth. Compared to other forms of cancer, these types of skin cancers are generally recognized in their early stages and are therefore more easily cured. However, Malignant Melanoma can be deadly if it is not detected and treated before it grows deeper into the skin.
How does skin cancer start?
It starts in the uppermost layer of the skin and grows downward, forming roots, spreading horizontally along the surface of the skin. Unfortunately, these extensions cannot be seen directly. Therefore, what is apparent to the naked eye on the surface of the skin may actually only be the “tip of the iceberg.”
How may skin cancer be treated?
There are several methods, all highly successful in the majority of patients. These include excision (surgical removal) and suturing (sewing); curettage and electrodesiccation (scraping and burning with an electric needle); cryosurgery (freezing); topical chemotherapy (chemical destruction); and Mohs (microscopically controlled excision). The method chosen depends on several factors, such as the location of the cancer, its size and previous therapies.
Skin cancer tends to be hereditary and occurs very frequently in certain ethnic groups, especially those with fair complexions such as Northern Europeans. Other possible contributors to its development include x-rays, tanning beds, trauma and certain chemicals.
For more information on the most common forms of skin cancer please visit www.skincancer.org.