Skin cancer or melanoma is a disease that sometimes is not recognized. Skin cancer is a type of cancer that grows in skin tissue. It caused by uncontrolled growth of skin cells and characterized by changes in the skin such as the appearance of bumps, spots, or moles with abnormal shape and size.
This condition occurs when DNA damage in skin cells triggers mutations or genetic defects. As a result, skin cells multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. This condition most often attacks areas of skin that are exposed to sunlight. However, this type of cancer can also affect areas that are rarely exposed to sunlight.
You can reduce your risk of getting this type of cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Checking your skin and more sensitive to suspicious changes can help detect this disease at the earliest stage. Early detection also gives you a great chance to recover.
Skin Cancer Types
There are 3 most common types of skin cancer, namely:
1. Basal Cell Carcinoma
This type of cancer usually appears in areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight such as the neck or face. This cancer develops in the basal cells, in the lowest part of the skin epidermis. Basal cell cancer usually develops slowly and rarely spreads to the surrounding lymph nodes or to the other distant parts of the body.
However, basal cell cancer can metastasize elsewhere if left untreated. So, it is very important to detect and treat it early. Even though it has been treated and removed, basal cell cancer can also reappear at the initial location of its appearance.
Someone who has had basal cell carcinoma once also has a greater risk of developing the same type of skin cancer in any other part of the body. Therefore, after sufferers complete the treatment for their cancer, they are advised to be diligent in checking the skin. So, they can immediately realize if there are signs of cancer recurrence.
Although it usually develops in areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun, cancer can also appear in closed areas. So, you also need to observe whether there are signs of abnormalities on the skin or not.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears in areas of the skin that are often exposed to sunlight such as the neck, ears, face or back of the hand. However, this cancer can also develop in other areas such as in scars, ulcers, or in the genital area.
This type of cancer tends to develop slowly and rarely spreads or metastasizes to other parts of the body. But when compared with basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma is more likely to spread to the fat tissue in the lowest skin layer (hypodermis) or even further.
Melanoma is cancer that develops in melanocytes. Melanocytes are skin cells in charge of producing a brown pigment called melanin. They are cells that darken the skin when exposed to sunlight, in response to protect the deepest layers of skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.
This type of cancer often develops on existing moles or suddenly appears to resemble new moles on the skin. Different from the other types, melanoma can appear in parts of the body that are covered or not exposed to sunlight, such ad in the genital area or at the bottom of the foot.
The American Academy of Dermatology calls melanoma as the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If left untreated, this cancer will spread rapidly to other body parts and can be fatal. But melanoma is very treatable if it is detected early.
Meanwhile, the rare skin cancer types are:
1. Merkel Cell Carcinoma
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer but aggressive. This cancer develops in Merkel cells that work together with nerve endings to give the skin the ability to feel touch.
Just like other types of non-melanoma cancer, this type of cancer appears more frequently in areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, such as on the face or scalp. Unlike other types of carcinomas in the skin, Merkel cell carcinomas can metastasize to the brain, bones, liver, or lungs.
2. Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratosis is an early symptom that caused by excessive sun exposure. In some cases, actinic keratosis can develop into squamous cell skin cancer. The symptoms are usually in the form of rough and scaly red lesions. Actinic keratosis often appears on the face, lips, ears, back of hands, and arms, but can occur in other areas that are not often exposed to sunlight.
Skin Cancer Symptoms and Signs
The following are skin cancer symptoms and signs by type:
1. Basal Cell Carcinoma
This type of cancer usually appears in areas of the body that exposed to sunlight such as the neck or face. Basal cell carcinoma symptoms are:
- Lump with a waxy appearance and a bit shiny
- Flat lesions are flesh-colored or brown-like scars
- Recurrent bleeding sores or scabs
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of cancer also appears in areas of the body exposed to sunlight such as the face, ears, and hands. However, dark-skinned people often get this type of cancer in areas that are not exposed to sunlight. Squamous cell carcinoma symptoms are:
- Nodules or solid red bumps
- Flat lesions with scaly and crusty surfaces
Melanoma can develop in anyone with any skin color. In people whose skin is darker, melanoma usually attacks the palms, soles, under the nails, or toenails. There are various signs and symptoms of melanoma:
- Large brown spots with darker spots
- Moles that change color or size
- Small lesions with irregular borders and red, pink, white, blue or blue-black color
- Painful or itchy painful lesions
- Dark lesions on the palms, soles of the feet, tips of the fingers or toes, mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, vagina or anus
Melanoma does resemble an ordinary mole, but the shape is more irregular. The ABCDE method can be used to differentiate ordinary moles from melanomas. These ABCDE methods include:
- Asymmetrical, most melanomas have an asymmetrical shape
- Border (periphery), the edge of melanoma tends to be irregular
- Color, the color more than one melanoma
- Diameter, size of melanoma more than 6 mm
- Evolution, changes in shape, color, or size of moles
If you have concerns about certain symptoms above, consult your doctor. The reason is that not everyone with skin cancer shows the exact same symptoms.
Skin Cancer Causes
Sunlight radiation and mutation errors in cell DNA are strongly suspected to be the cause of this disease. Mutations cause cells to grow out of control to form a mass of cancer cells. In addition, there are several risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer, namely:
1. White Skin
Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get this cancer. However, the small amount of pigment (melanin) in the skin provides little protection against damaging UV radiation. If you have blonde hair, light-colored eyes, freckles and sunburn easily, you are more likely to get this cancer than people with dark skin.
2. Has a History of Skin Cancer
Someone who has had skin cancer has a high risk of getting this cancer again. The risk will also increase if you have a family member with a history of skin cancer.
3. Exposure to Excessive Sunlight
Exposure to excessive sunlight can make your risk increase, especially if you do not protect your skin with sunscreen or covered clothing. In addition, people who live in highlands like mountains or lowlands like beaches also at risk being exposed to more radiation. Always protect your skin by using sunblock or sunscreen.
4. Has Lots of Moles
People who have lots of moles are generally more at risk of developing this type of cancer than those who do not. Especially, if you have an abnormal mole. The abnormal moles are characterized by irregular shape and the size is larger than normal.
5. Have Precancerous Skin Lesions
Precancerous skin lesions such as actinic keratosis can increase your risk. The growth usually appears in the form of rough and scaly patches. These lesions most commonly appear on the face, head, and hands in white people whose skin has been damaged by sunlight.
6. Weak Immune System
People with weak immune systems have a higher risk of developing this cancer. People who have a weak immune system are such as people with HIV / AIDS and those who use immunosuppressant drugs after organ transplantation.
7. Radiation Exposure
People who undergo radiation treatment for eczema or acne are at high risk of developing this cancer. Compared with other types, basal cell carcinoma is usually the most common attack.
8. Exposure to Chemicals
There are many chemicals that are thought to cause cancer (carcinogenic), one of them is arsenic.
Skin Cancer Diagnosis
To diagnose skin cancer, the doctor will usually check its external appearance. In addition, the doctor will also ask about your medical history and your family, especially those who have experienced similar diseases. After that, the doctor will carry out various further tests to confirm the diagnosis.
If the doctor suspects that the change in the skin is cancer, he will do a biopsy test. This test is done by taking a skin that looks suspicious to be tested in the laboratory. The biopsy can determine whether you have skin cancer or not and also know the type. The following are the stages of skin cancer:
- Stadium 0. Cancer cells are still in the same place and have not spread beyond the epidermis or outer layer of skin.
- Stadium 1. Cancer has spread to the skin layer below the epidermis or called the dermis, but its size is no more than 2 cm.
- Stadium 2. Cancer has not spread to other tissues, but its size has grown to more than 2 cm.
- Stadium 3. Cancer has spread to other surrounding tissue such as bone and its width is more than 3 cm.
- Stadium 4. Cancer has spread to other tissues that are far from the origin of cancer such as lymph growth and its size is more than 3 cm.
Skin Cancer Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor.
Basically, This type of cancer is treated according to type and severity. Usually, the doctor will do a combination of several treatments to help cure this disease. The various skin cancer treatments are:
This procedure is done by freezing cancer cells using liquid nitrogen. Later, the dead tissue will peel itself off after some time.
2. Excision Operation
This procedure is usually recommended for all types. Usually, the doctor will cut the cancerous tissue and some healthy skin around it.
3. Operation Mohs
This procedure is performed for cancers that are broader, recurrent, and difficult to treat. Generally, this procedure is used for squamous and basal cell carcinoma. During this procedure, the doctor will remove layers of skin affected by cancer cells layer by layer.
The doctor then will examine each layer of skin under a microscope until there are no abnormal cells left. This procedure allows cancer cells to be removed without taking in excessive amounts from the surrounding healthy skin.
In chemotherapy, drugs are used to kill cancer cells. For cancers that are only found in the epidermal layer, the doctor will apply a cream or lotion that contains anticancer agents.
Meanwhile, cells that have spread to other parts of the body use systemic chemotherapy. Doctors will give drugs to flow directly to the body through an IV tube.
After removing most of the cancer cells, doctors also often use a procedure called curettage. This procedure is carried out using a circular knife device to remove cells and an electric needle to destroy the remaining cancer cells. Generally, this procedure is used to treat thin basal or squamous cells.
6. Radiation Therapy
This therapy is done by using high-energy rays such as X-rays. The goal is to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is generally recommended when cancer cannot completely disappear during surgery.
7. Photodynamic Therapy
This therapy is done by destroying cancer cells with a combination of laser plus medication. The drugs used are those that can make cancer cells sensitive to light.
8. Biological therapy
This therapy is carried out using the immune system to kill cancer cells.
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Besides the treatment above, you can also do home remedies. The following are lifestyle changes that can be done to treat skin cancer.
- Use sunscreen when you leave the house
- Using closed clothes when leaving the house plus a hat and sunglasses
- Eat healthy and balanced nutritious foods to strengthen the immune system
- Rest enough to restore the condition of the body
- Stay away from stress condition, so the body’s condition does not decrease
Skin Cancer Prevention
There are several things that can be done to prevent skin cancer, namely:
- Avoid sunlight during the day because the strongest exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun takes place from 10 am to 4 pm
- Always use sunscreen when leaving the room with an SPF of at least 30 and apply 2 hours once
- Wearing closed clothes when doing outdoors activities including hats
- Use sunglasses that are equipped with UV protection
- Not often sunbathing to darken the skin color or tanning
- Go to the doctor regularly if you have various cancer risk factors