Skin Cancer

The definition of skin cancer is one that you may or may not have heard before. Ultimately, when skin cells become cancerous, they are considered an abnormal growth of cells of the skin.

photo of skin cancer
Pictured here is an example of basal skin cancer.

For the most part, people that get skin cancer do so because of too much exposure to the sun. It is quite common for people to experience this form of cancer when they spend a lot of time outside in direct sunlight. But it is not the only way to acquire this common problem, because it occurs in others in areas where the skin has none or little exposure to the sunlight.

What Are the Three Main Types of Skin Cancer?

As we have just mentioned, there are three main kinds of skin cancer that anyone could potentially develop throughout their lifetime.

The three major players are:

  • melanoma
  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma

It is very possible to reduce your potential risk for skin cancer, and you can do so in one specific way. To reduce your risk, the easiest way to prevent this potential deadly disease is to avoid heavy amounts of exposure to UV radiation. Ultraviolet rays are the major contributor to developing cancerous cells on the skin.

As a way to potentially detect skin cancer, it is best to regularly check your skin for changes that you might find suspicious. By looking for these potential changes in the way that your skin looks, you will give yourself with the best chance to catch skin cancer at an early stage.

Skin Cancer Development: What Areas Are Most Often Affected?

To help hammer this point home, we will once again reiterate that skin cancer will develop primarily in areas that have direct exposure to the sun. The most common areas that people experience this disease include: the hands, chest, arms, neck, face, ears, and lips.

On another note, it is quite possible for skin cancer to form in areas that you cannot see and typically do not see the light of day. These areas include: beneath the fingernails or toenails, the palms and the genital area.

The Likely and Potential Causes of Skin Cancer

As most people already know, ultraviolet radiation is the reason that the majority of the DNA damage is caused to skin cells. You will normally find UV radiation into specific areas including: tanning beds and the sun.

This does not explain all forms of skin cancer, as you are about to see. As we have discussed, this type of cancer does have the potential to form on certain areas of the skin that do not typically experience exposure to ultraviolet radiation through sunlight or tanning beds.

It becomes difficult to explain in what way since ultraviolet radiation does not play a role at all. In fact, this clearly indicates that there are other factors that have to contribute to skin cancer risk. One such potential risk of skin care is exposing your skin to toxic substances. Another is a weakened immune system.

Below are the likeliest potential factors that increase skin cancer risk:

  • Excessive exposures to the sun – people who spend large amounts of time directly in the sunlight have a greater potential to develop cancer of the skin. This is especially true if these people spend time in the sun without being fully clothed or using sunscreen to protect the exposed areas of the skin. You will also find yourself a greater risk if you experience excessive exposure to tanning beds and tanning lamps without using the recommended amounts of sunscreen. In actuality, getting a tan is a response that your body creates because of too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
  • Precancerous skin lesions – if you have lesions on your skin, especially those called actinic keratoses, you are definitely at greater risk to develop skin cancer. To determine if you have these precancerous growths, you should look regularly for scaly, rough patches on the skin. They can range in color from dark pink to brown. Individuals experience them most commonly on the hands, head and face when their skin is fair or when they have experienced sun damage.
  • Fair skin – it is possible for anyone to get skin cancer no matter the color of their skin. But, if you have less pigment in your skin – known as melanin – then you are at greater risk due to lack of protection from ultraviolet radiation. Those with fair skin typically sunburn easily, have freckles, have light-colored eyes and have red or blond hair. People with darker skin tones have less of a chance of developing this kind of cancer than those who have a fair complexion.
  • History of getting sunburns – as a child, or even as an teenager, if you have a history of getting excessive sunburns than you are at much greater risk of developing skin cancer when you become an adult. Even adults who regularly get sunburns are at a greater risk than those who do not.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

Changes to your skin are the first warning sign that something could be happening and worth checking out.  If you find new growths or lesions, it’s time to start showing some concern.  It’s worth noting that not all lesions and growths will start out as cancerous, but a large percentage of them (often 40-50% of them according to WebMD) can become cancerous as time passes.

Skin Cancer Treatment Options

After performing a self-diagnosis, the next step is to visit the doctor to confirm your suspicions. While at the doctor’s office, he or she will perform a biopsy to find out if the damaged skin is actually cancerous skin cells.

In many cases, when the affected area of the skin is small, the biopsy is enough to remove the potentially cancerous skin cells. But if the cancer is bigger and in more areas on your body, the doctor may have to perform other treatments.

Some potential skin cancer treatment options include:

  • Freezing the skin – it is possible that your doctor could use liquid nitrogen to destroy skin cancer cells when they are in their earliest stages. As the freezing thaws, the skin cancer cells will slough off of your body.
  • Surgery – in many instances, the doctor may be required to perform surgery by cutting off the cancerous skin cells.
  • Chemotherapy – just like with many other cancers, skin cancer might require chemotherapy as a potential treatment option.
  • Radiation therapy – doctors also use high-power energy beams to perform radiation therapy. X-rays are one good example that could potentially kill cancerous skin cells.

All in all, please know that most forms of skin cancer are preventable. Be cautious and limit your exposure to ultraviolet light or wear clothing and use proper sunscreen protection.

Skin Cancer Pictures

Many people wonder “what does skin cancer look like?”  It’s a valid question, and one that you should be curious as to the answer in order to protect you and your loved ones.

Skin Cancer Picture

We couldn’t find a better resource other than the video below, which shows many pictures of basal skin cancer.

Skin Cancer
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