Skin cancer is a condition in which skin cells grow out of control and multiply abnormally. Most of the time, this is due to overexposure to the sun, but there may be other reasons as well. You can find more information below.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. Cancer cells grow and divide rapidly and irregularly, while healthy cells grow and divide regularly. This rapid growth results in tumors that are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) .

There are three main types of skin cancer. These; They are called basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma . Basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer, also called non-melanoma skin cancer, are the most common types of skin cancer.

People who live to age 65 will develop basal cell or squamous cell cancer at least once. Non-melanoma skin cancer is highly curable if treated early.

Made up of pigment cells called melanocytes, melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and causes the majority of skin cancer deaths. If left untreated or diagnosed at an advanced stage, it becomes extremely difficult to treat and can even spread to other organs.

Skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers in the world. It is estimated that one in five people will develop this type of cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, skin cancer is almost always curable if detected and treated early. Seeking medical attention at the first suspicion of skin cancer is critical to successful treatment.

What is the incidence?

Each year, approximately 200,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed worldwide; Men and women are affected with approximately equal frequency. The average age at which women develop malignant melanoma is 58 years, while men develop the disease at an average age of 66.

The number of skin cancer cases has tripled over the past three decades, partly due to higher life expectancy. That’s because the older you get, the more likely you are to develop a tumor.

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What causes skin cancer?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summer months.

Sun exposure mainly causes basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, while episodes of severe blistering sunburn, usually before age 18, can cause melanoma later in life.

Other less common causes include repeated X-ray exposure, traces of burns or illness, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals.

Who is at risk?

While anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people with fair skin, blond or red hair that burns easily. People with darker skin are also susceptible to skin cancer, although their risk is quite low.

Other risk factors include genetic factors or a personal history of skin cancer. For example, albino people are susceptible to skin cancer. Those who work outdoors or live in sunny climates are also at risk.

Kidney transplant and other organ transplant patients are 250 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma compared to general people.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Skin cancer is not always easy to detect for ordinary people, as it causes different skin changes and often has an inconspicuous effect.

Experts recognize basal cell carcinomas from their yellowish-reddish color, a pearly cord-like edge, and shimmering, small blood vessels on the surface. Squamous cell carcinomas in turn form palpable nodules with an overlying hard, scaly layer or crust.

Both benign skin cancers manifest in areas of the body called “sun terraces”. These are areas that are particularly exposed to UV rays in the sun. These include the forearms, back of the hands, nose, forehead, auriculars, and lower lip.

Black skin cancer, also called melanoma, is also found in these areas. This can occur most often in the upper body in men and in the arms and legs in women.

Melanomas form dark, different-colored patches with no clear boundaries. They occur when melanocytes, the pigment cells of the skin, degenerate and are a malignant skin cancer.

When should you see a doctor?

If you notice any difference in your skin, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible. However, it should not be forgotten that; Not all changes in the skin occur due to skin cancer.

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

To diagnose skin cancer, your doctor may:

  • Examines your skin: Your doctor may look at your skin to determine if your skin change is skin cancer. Further testing may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
  • May perform a skin biopsy: Your doctor may remove suspicious-looking skin for laboratory testing. A biopsy can determine whether you have skin cancer and, if so, what type of skin cancer you have.
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Determining the extent of skin cancer

If your doctor determines that you have skin cancer, you may have additional tests to determine the grade (stage) of skin cancer.

Because superficial skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma rarely spread, a biopsy that often removes the entire growth is the only test needed to determine the cancer stage. But if you have a large squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma, your doctor may recommend further testing to determine the extent of the cancer.

Additional testing may include imaging tests to examine nearby lymph nodes for signs of cancer, or the procedure to remove a nearby lymph node and test it for signs of cancer.

Doctors use numbers from 1 to 5 to indicate the stage of a cancer. Stage 1 cancers are small and limited to the area where it started. Stage IV indicates advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Skin cancer is staged by the doctor, and its stage helps determine which treatment options will be most effective.

How is skin cancer treated?

Skin cancer is diagnosed by performing a biopsy. This is the removal of a tissue sample, which is then placed under the microscope and examined by a pathologist. Sometimes, a biopsy can remove all of the cancer tissue and no further treatment is needed.

Treatment of cancer depends on the type and extent of the disease. However, surgery is often used to treat many skin cancers.

Mohs surgery (microscopic surgery) is a technique used to treat some non-melanoma skin cancers. This technique effectively removes cancer cells while allowing the greatest amount of healthy tissue to be preserved. This surgery should only be performed by a dermatological surgeon specially trained in Mohs surgery.

Other treatments include cryosurgery (freezing), drugs (including chemotherapy and biological response modifiers), laser therapy , radiation therapy , and clinical trials involving new treatment modalities . Skin cancer treatment can often involve more than one type of medical specialty.

Specialties of dermatology, plastic surgery, medical oncology, pathology or radiation oncology can be combined. That’s why it’s important to find a medical center with a multidisciplinary team approach to skin cancer diagnosis and treatment.

In a multidisciplinary setting, team members consult, discuss, and make decisions about diagnosis. Together, they determine the most appropriate treatment for each skin cancer patient.

Treatment of basal cell carcinoma

In the case of basal cell cancer, the doctor tries to completely remove the cancer with surgery. If this is not possible, some procedures may be successful in other cases. For a very superficial cancer, for example, a cream may help.

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Photodynamic therapy may also be considered. An ointment is applied that sensitizes the tumor cells to light. The tumor is then irradiated with light so that the cells die. X-rays often help older people.

Treatment of squamous cell carcinoma

Actinic keratoses can also develop into this type of carcinoma. In either case, the affected area should be removed by a doctor. The dermatologist usually cuts or scrapes the skin.

However, other treatment modalities may also be used, such as, for example, liquid nitrogen icing, laser therapy, X-ray radiation, or photodynamic therapy.

Diagnosed squamous cell carcinoma should be removed as soon as possible. If necessary, the doctor will also work on neighboring lymph nodes. If an operation is not possible, various other treatments such as radiation therapy may be considered. If lymph nodes or other organs are already affected, treatment with chemotherapy or other special medications may be necessary.

Treatment of melanoma

Melanoma, which is a malignant skin cancer, must be treated in any case. Depending on the size of the tumor, the dermatologist also removes the surrounding tissue and the nearest lymph node. If cancer cells are found in the lymph node, the doctor will also remove other nearby lymph nodes.

For some forms of melanoma that have penetrated deeper into the skin, treatment with interferons after a surgery may also be helpful. Interferons are substances attached to the body that stimulate the immune system to eliminate cancer cells that may still be present. Since interferons can be associated with various side effects, the doctor will carefully consider whether treatment with interferons is possible.

If the malignant melanoma has spread to other organs, further treatment measures are necessary. This includes, for example, radiation or other processes.

Can skin cancer be prevented?

With so many outdoor activities, avoiding the sun is often not possible. Exposure of sensitive skin to sunlight increases the risk of skin cancer.

Professional health organizations in many parts of the world emphasize the following measures:

  • You should avoid too much sunlight.
  • You should use sunglasses with UV protection.
  • You must wear protective clothing and a hat.
  • Between 10:30 and 15:30, you should stay away from sunlight as much as possible during the hours when UV rays are intense.
  • If you encounter any anomaly on your skin, you should consult your physician immediately.
  • If you are a parent, you should be a good role model and educate your children against skin cancer.

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