Cancer » Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancers worldwide and accounts for considerable number of cancer-deaths. The cancer is also known as skin neoplasia. The cancer is of three main types as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are also known as non-melanoma cancers of the skin. Melanoma is the deadliest of the three types of cancers and causes maximum number of deaths due to cancer of the skin.
Nature of skin cancer
Cancer of the skin is curable if detected early but can metastasize rapidly if not detected for a long time. In this cancer, the malignant cells generally attack the outer layer of the skin (known as epidermis) and form tumors that are openly visible in the form of a lump or raised mass. Skin performs some of the most important functions like controlling fluid loss, protecting internal organs from infection and injury, maintaining body temperature and draining out waste through the sweat glands. Hence, cancer in the skin may also affect the internal organs directly or indirectly and may also make you more prone to some other types of cancers.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a kind of skin cancer in which the cancerous cells attack the squamous cells present on the outer layer of the skin. Skin on the face is most prone to this type of disorder though, the cancerous cells may also develop in other areas of the body. Basal cell carcinoma is another important type of skin neoplasia. This type of infection is different from melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma in the sense that it does not spread to other areas and restricts itself only to the place of its origin. The disorder develops mainly in the basal cells present in the outer layer of the skin. Areas of the body frequently exposed to sun-light are most prone to this type of cancerous infection.
Melanoma is the most important type of skin neoplasia. This is the most severe form of the cancer of the skin and chances of survival of patients suffering from this disorder are comparatively lower. The cancerous cells mostly target the melanocytes. Melanocytes play a key role in maintaining color of the skin by secreting the melanin pigment. Thus, cancerous attack on melanocytes may lead to visible change in the color of the skin and make the victim's body more prone to other kinds of skin diseases. Melanoma metastasizes rapidly and may spread to vital organs like the lungs, brain and liver.
The cancerous cells target the live and healthy tissues and cells and force them to behave abnormally. Abnormal behavior of cells leads to their rapid division and growth and disturbs the process of development of cells in a systematic manner. Invasion of tissues severely impacts the steady flow of oxygen and blood to various areas of the body. This increases the risk of metastasis as improper supply of oxygen and blood forces cells present in other parts of the body to behave abnormally. The cancerous cells not only kill tissues and infect cells but also prevent the old cells from dying normally. This leads to rapid increase in the number of unnecessary cells and a lump or tumor of such abnormal cells is formed.
Tumor can be benign or cancerous. Cancerous tumors pose a threat to human body as they metastasize and recur even if cured in the past. Bloodstream and lymph nodes are the main mediums they use to spread to other parts of the body. Benign tumors are usually less destructive and do not exhibit a tendency to metastasize. Chances of their recurrence are very less if treated properly. Surgery is the most common form of treatment to remove benign tumors.
Guidelines to tackle skin cancer
Excess exposure to sun is one of the principle causes of the disease. Harmful ultra-violet rays emitted by the sun are hazardous for the skin as they play a destructive role in killing cells and tissues and also cause damage to the skin. Dark-skinned persons are less prone to the disease and the disease is mostly common in fair-skinned or white-skinned people. In men, the areas that are most prone to this cancer are the back, neck and shoulders. Women are also equally prone to the disorder and the cancerous cells mainly target their arms and legs.
Any abnormality or unusual appearance of the skin must be examined medically using various common techniques like the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, endoscopy, X-rays and biopsy. Various forms of treatments are available to treat the disease and the line of treatment mainly depends upon the intensity and character of the cancerous cells. Ultrasound and positron emission tomography (PET) test is also advisable before deciding on a certain line of treatment.
Skin cancer usually occurs in people above 40 years of age. Family history of the disease may put a person at risk of being infected by this cancer. Frequent exposure to harmful radiations is another vital cause of the disease. Strong immune system is a must to resist the development of cancerous cells. Weak immune system leads to bad health of body cells and tissues and makes your more prone to the cancer attack.
Skin irritations, unusual patches on the skin and lumps must be examined thoroughly. Unusual change in shape of the skin, unnatural bleeding and frequent ulcers on the skin are some of the early indications of the presence of cancerous cells.
Skin cancer is curable if detected early. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are easier to treat as compared to melanoma. Radiation therapy is one of the most effective techniques to cure skin neoplasia. Some may also undergo chemical therapy depending upon the nature and stage of cancer. It is important to understand the line of treatment thoroughly as these treatments come with high number of side effects. A person must consult a cancer specialist to know whether his body is capable of sustaining such treatments.