Skin Cancer Savannah, Ga
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in the skin cells. In the U.S. alone, more than 2 million Americans are expected to be diagnised in 2013 with nonmelanoma skin cancer, and more than 76,000 are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
There are three main types of skin cancer, including:
basal cell carcinoma
|Basal cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 75 percent of all skin cancers. This highly treatable cancer starts in the basal cell layer of the epidermis (the top layer of skin) and grows very slowly. Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule on the skin - mainly those areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, arms, hands, and face. It most commonly occurs among people with light-colored eyes, hair, and complexion.
squamous cell carcinoma
|Squamous cell carcinoma, although more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma, is highly treatable. It accounts for about 20 percent of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as nodules or red, scaly patches of skin, and may be found on the face, ears, lips, and mouth. However, squamous cell carcinoma can spread to other parts of the body. This type of skin cancer is usually found in fair-skinned people.
|Malignant melanoma accounts for 3 percent of all skin cancers, and accounts for 75 percent of deaths from skin cancer. Malignant melanoma starts in the melanocytes - cells that produce pigment in the skin. Malignant melanomas usually begin as a mole that then turns cancerous. This cancer may spread quickly. Malignant melanoma most often appears on fair-skinned men and women, but people with all skin types may be affected.
Distinguishing benign moles from melanoma:
To help find melanoma early, it is important to examine your skin on a regular basis, and become familiar with moles, and other skin conditions, in order to better identify changes. According to recent research, certain moles are at higher risk for changing into malignant melanoma. Moles that are present at birth, and atypical moles, have a greater chance of becoming malignant. Recognizing changes in moles, by following this ABCD Chart, is crucial in detecting malignant melanoma at its earliest stage. The warning signs are:
Melanomas vary greatly in appearance. Some melanomas may show all of the ABCD characteristics, while others may show few or none. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
What is a risk factor?
A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases, including cancers, have different risk factors.
Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while others develop disease and have no known risk factors.
But, knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.
What are the risk factors for skin cancer?
Skin cancer is more common in fair-skinned people - especially those with blond or red hair, who have light-colored eyes. Skin cancer is rare in children. However, no one is safe from skin cancer. Almost half of all Americans who live to age 65 will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their lives, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other risk factors include the following:
- family history of melanoma
- prior histoy of skin cancer
- sun exposure
The amount of time spent unprotected in the sun directly affects your risk of skin cancer.
- early childhood sunburns
Research has shown that sunburns early in life increase a person's risk for skin cancer later in life.
- many freckles
- many ordinary moles (more than 50)
- dysplastic nevi
- prior radiation therapy
- lowered immunity (such as in people who have had organ transplants)
- Certain rare, inherited conditions such as basal cell nevus syndrome (Gorlin syndrome) or xeroderma pigmentosum (XP)
Prevention of skin cancer
The following six steps have been recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation to help reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
- Minimize exposure to the sun at midday - between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Apply sunscreen, with at least a SPF-30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, to all areas of the body that are exposed to the sun.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days. Reapply after swimming or perspiring.
- Use extra caution near water and sand - they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase the chance of a sunburn.
- Wear clothing that covers the body and shades the face. Hats should provide shade for both the face and back of the neck. Wearing sunglasses will reduce the amount of rays reaching the eye by filtering as much as 80 percent of the rays, and protecting the lids of our eyes as well as the lens.
- Avoid exposure to UV radiation from sunlamps or tanning parlors.
- Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet or vitamin supplements. Do not seek the sun for vitamin D.
- Protect children. Keep them from excessive sun exposure when the sun is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), and apply sunscreen liberally and frequently to children 6 months of age and older.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) approves of the use of sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months old if adequate clothing and shade are not available. Parents should still try to avoid sun exposure and dress the infant in lightweight clothing that covers most surface areas of skin. However, parents also may apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to the infant's face and back of the hands.
Remember, sand and pavement reflect UV rays even under an umbrella. Snow is also a particularly good reflector of UV rays.
How to perform a skin self-examination
Finding suspicious moles or skin cancer early is the key to treating skin cancer successfully. A skin self-examination is usually the first step in detecting skin cancer. The following suggested method of self-examination comes from the American Academy of Dermatololgy:
(You will need a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, and a brightly lit room.)
- Examine your body front and back in mirror, then the right and left sides, with your arms raised. Women should look under their breasts.
- Bend your elbows, look carefully at your forearms, the back of your upper arms, and the palms of your hands. Check between your fingers and look at your nail beds.
- Look at backs of your legs and feet, spaces between your toes, your toenail beds, and the soles of your feet.
- Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror.
- Check your back, buttocks, and genital area with a hand mirror.
- Become familiar with your skin and the pattern of your moles, freckles, and other marks.
- Be alert to changes in the number, size, shape, and color of pigmented areas.
- Follow the ABCD Chart when examining moles of other pigmented areas and consult your physician promptly if you notice any changes.
Treatments for skin cancer
Specific treatment for skin cancer will be determined by your physician based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Type of skin cancer
- Extent and location of the disease
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
There are several kinds of treatments for skin cancer, including the following:
Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer. It is used in most treated cases. Some types of skin cancer growths can be removed very easily and require only very minor surgery, while others may require a more extensive surgical procedure. Surgery may include the following procedures:
Using liquid nitrogen, cryosurgery uses an instrument that sprays the liquid onto the skin, freezing and destroying the tissue.
- Curettage and electrodesiccation
This common type of surgery involves scraping away skin tissue with a curette (a sharp surgical instrument), followed by cauterizing the wound with an electrosurgical unit.
A scalpel (sharp surgical instrument) may be used to excise (cut away) and remove the growth. The wound is usually stitched or held closed with skin clips.
- Mohs' microscopically controlled surgery
This type of surgery involves excising a lesion, layer by layer. Each piece of removed tissue is examined under a microscope. Tissue is progressively removed until no tumor cells are seen. The goal of this type of surgery is to remove all of the malignant cells and as little normal tissue as possible. It is often used with recurring tumors that come back after treatment.
- Laser therapy
Laser surgery uses a narrow beam of light to destroy cancer cells, and is sometimes used with tumors located on the outer layer of skin.
- Radiation therapy
X-rays are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- Photodynamic therapy
Photodynamic therapy uses a certain type of light and a special chemical to kill cancer cells.
- Other types of treatment include the following:
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
- Topical chemotherapy - chemotherapy given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells.
- Systemic chemotherapy - chemotherapy administered orally or intravenously (IV) for more advanced cancers.
Immunotherapy involves various approaches to boost the body's own immune system, helping it to attack the cancer. Some types of treatment can be applied on tumors or injected directly into them. Other types are used for more advanced cancers and are given as an injection into the vein (IV).
- Targeted therapy
Some medicines used to treat advanced skin cancers work by targeting specific parts of the cancer cells. These medicines can often be taken as a pill.
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Last reviewed: 6/27/2013