Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and involves abnormal growths of skin cells that can form anywhere on the body, but most frequently appear on skin that is exposed to the sun. There are more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the US each year. Although most cases of skin cancer can be successfully treated, it is still important to keep skin safe and healthy and try to prevent this disease.
There are three major types of skin cancer that affect associated layers of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma affects the squamous cells, which are just below the outer surface of the skin and serve as the inner lining. Basal cell carcinoma affects the basal cells, which lay under the squamous cells and produce new skin cells. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and affects the melanocytes, which produce melanin.
Everyday, skin cells die and new ones form to replace them through DNA-controlled processes. Skin cancer can form when this process does not work properly, due to damaged DNA. When these processes do not function properly, tumors may form. DNA damage is often a result of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps. Since skin cancer can sometimes affect areas not exposed to the sun, heredity may also be a factor. Certain factors, such as fair skin, moles, a weakened immune system and age, can also increase the risk of skin cancer.
Medical attention is necessary after noticing any skin changes, as early detection is valuable in successfully treating skin cancer. Regular full body screening is recommended as well. A biopsy is usually performed to accurately diagnose suspected cancerous growths.
Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the tumor. Most options remove the entire growth, are usually effective, and can performed in an outpatient setting. Skin cancer treatment methods include freezing, excision, laser therapy, Mohs surgery and chemotherapy.
Although most skin cancer treatments are successful, recurrence is still possible. It is therefore important to practice preventive measures and see your doctor regularly. Self skin exams are also a good idea to spot any changes promptly.