There are three types of skin cancer:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) which is the most common type of skin cancer and the least deadly.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) which often develops from pre-cancerous changes to the skin such as actinic keratoses and
- Malignant melanoma which is the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer.
Who is at Risk?
A risk factor is anything that increases the chance that you might develop a disease.
The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight. Fair-skinned people, especially those with red or blond hair, are most likely to get skin cancer. This is because their skin cells have less melanin, the pigment that helps prevent burning. The darker the skin, the more melanin present. African Americans, who have the greatest amount of melanin, are the least likely to develop skin cancer, and if it does occur, it is almost always in skin with less pigment.
People who work outdoors, such as farmers and construction workers, and those who go boating often, play a lot of outdoor sports, or sunbathe, are at the highest risk of developing skin cancer.
Certain moles make it more likely that a person will develop melanoma.
- Fair skinned, blond or red hair; green, blue or hazel eyes; lots of freckles; burns easily when out in the sun;
- Family history of skin cancer especially melanoma
- Previous history of skin cancer
- Suppressed immune system
- At least one bad sunburn
- Sun exposure
- Stay indoors between 10 am and 4 pm
- Seek the shade if you have to be outdoors
- Wearing clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. Clothing should be dry, dark-colored, loose fitting, tightly woven
- Wide brimmed hat with 3 – 4” brim all the way round
- Sunglasses that block out 100% of UVA and UVB rays (check the label)
- Broad spectrum Sunscreen with a SPF 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays
Signs and Symptoms
Any unusual sore, lump, blemish, other skin marking, or change in the way an area of the skin looks or feels may be a sign of skin cancer or a warning that it is likely to occur. In later stages the skin might by crusty, scaly, oozing, or bleeding. The skin may also feel itchy, tender, and painful.
By performing monthly skin self exams, you can become familiar with your moles, blemishes and birthmarks on your body. If you notice any changes make an appointment with your doctor to have him check your skin out.
Melanoma (a type of skin cancer) begins in moles. Here are simple rules that are signs of melanoma.
A = ASSYMETRY
one half does not match the other half.
B = BORDER IRREGULARITY
the edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
C = COLOUR
the pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Red, white, and blue may add to the mottled appearance.
D = DIAMETER GREATER THAN 6 MILLIMETERS
any sudden or continuing increase in size should be of special concern.
There are five main ways of treating skin cancer:
- Excisional surgery (cutting the cancer out)
- Electrondesiccation (destroying the cancer cells with heat)
- Cryosurgery (freezing the cancer cells until they die)
- Laser therapy
- Radiation therapy