Introduction to Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK, with 100,000 new cases presenting each year.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a one of the most common cancers in the UK, with 100,000 new cases presenting each year. There are 3 different types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Of these, malignant melanoma is the most serious as it can rapidly spread around the body, infiltrating other organs and tissues. If you think you may be experiencing skin cancer, please see your dermatologist or GP; there is more that can be done if skin cancer is identified early on.
What are the causes for Skin Cancer ?
The most important cause of skin cancer is exposure to UV light. Both UVA and UVB contribute to the development of skin cancer, with UVB seeming to have the greatest impact. Sources of UV light include sunlight and tanning beds.
Having a great number of moles or having one large or unusual shaped mole increases your risk of developing melanoma. In addition, there seems to be a genetic influence, as skin cancer does run in families. Other risk factors include having pale skin that does not tan easily, having blonde or red hair, older age, having skin previously damaged by radiotherapy treatment, suffering from immunosuppression (due to drugs or disease) and exposure to certain chemicals such as arsenic and creosote.
What are the symptoms of Skin Cancer ?
Normal moles tend to be round, smooth and smaller than 6mm. You should see a doctor if a mole is getting bigger, changing shape, bleeding, becoming crusty, changing colour or becoming itchy.
Non-melanoma skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma) typically presents as a lump or patch on the skin that does not heal. Lumps are often red and firm whilst patches are scaly.
How is Skin Cancer treated?
The primary treatment strategy for skin cancer is surgery, involving excision of the cancer and a border of skin surrounding it. However, depending on the type of tumour and your personal circumstances, other treatments may be preferred and required.
Treatment of melanoma that is not thought to have spread typically involves surgery. However, if the cancer appears to be invasive, lymph nodes in the surrounding area may have to be removed. In advanced stage (severe) melanoma, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may play a role. However, melanoma that has spread to other regions of the body (metastatic) may not be curable.