Skin cancer is more common than all other cancer types combined.
It is the most common form of cancer in the young population and in South Africa. Skin cancer origin is in the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis).This is why a tumor is usually cleary visible.there are many types of skin cancer but commonly, it refers to three different conditions.Skin cancer is either made up of basal cell carcinomas (BCC), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) or malignant melanoma (MM). BCC arise in the basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis, meanwhile SCC arises in squamous cells (upper layer) that make up most of the skin’s epidermis. Every third melanoma develops from a mole. MM is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, because it tends to spread (metastasize) quickly throughout the body.It occurs when melanocytes ( the pigment cells) in the lower part of the epidermis, become malignant, meaning that they start dividing uncontrollably. If melanoma spreads to the lymph nodes it may also reach other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs or brain. In such cases, the disease is called metastatic melanoma. MM makes up just 4% of the skin cancer rate but it causes the most deaths. With 81% of skin cancer cases being BCC, it is the most common form of skin cancer yet and luckily the least serious. It rarely causes death because these cancer cells almost never metastasize to other parts of the body. Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer that seldom spreads to other parts of the body.
|Basal Cell Carcinoma|
BCC can surface everywhere, but it is most commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the skin, especially the face, shoulders and neck. Its appearance is flesh-coloured, symmetrical in nature and shows signs of ulceration.
They proceed as growing lumps and cicatrices or psoriasis form dots on the skin that usually come up as a red, crusted, or scaly patch. Squamous cell carcinoma spreads more often than basal cell carcinoma, but still is considered rare.
Squamous cells, which are flat, make up most of the epidermis.Together BCC and SCC are the two major forms of non-melanoma skin cancer. These cancer types are often associated with chronic exposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds. Strong UV radiation, but also recurring sunburns and hereditary dispositions are reasons for MM.
The characteristic sign of Malignant Melanoma (MM) is an asymmetrical area with an irregular border and colour variation. The more moles that exist, the higher the risk of developing MM. In general, skin cancer develops in people of all race, however high-risk groups are blond or red haired people, with light skin and a tendency to burn or freckle when exposed to the sun. Anyone with a family history of skin cancer also has an increased risk of developing the disease.
Skin cancer does not just suddenly appear.
Non-meloma skin cancers normally affect the elderly, because their cancer cells grow slowly over decades and are the consequence of overexposure to the sun. The most common warning sign is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal. However, MM appears in groups of all ages. A (new grown) blurry mole or a mole that grows, you can feel and doesn’t have a round, asymmetric form is another indication for melanoma and should be reason enough for a consultation. A dermatologist can easily check out whether your symptoms are serious. Sometimes the removal of an ominous mole is sufficient and saves lives. With proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is about 95%, but once it spreads the prognosis is poor. An early detection can save suffering and also your life. On account of this you should examine your skin from time to time carefully and never forget that one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence or more than five sunburns at any age more than doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life!
South Africa has the second highest skin cancer rate after Australia. This fact should make South Africans realise, that overexposure to the sun is unhealthy.
There is also no such thing as a healthy tan!
What does UV mean?
Ultra violet rays are part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth. There are two kinds of UV rays that damage our skin. The broader UVB rays cause the browning reaction that we call ‘tanning’ and are responsible for the painful burning, redness and ultimately skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and can damage the structure of the cells, causing ageing, as well as increasing the risk of cancer. Due to the hole in the ozone layer, South Africa has received increased amounts of UVA and UVB rays from the sun as the ozone layer is what protects the earth from the sun.
What does a sun protection factor (SPF) mean?
If you usually start to burn within 5 minutes, a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 protects you skin for 15 times as long, ie 75 minutes. Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘complete’ block. Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10:00 and 15:00 when the sun’s rays are most dangerous.
Spot the Spot
Check your skin carefully every month and ask a family member or friend to examine your back and the top of your head. If you notice any of these warming signs, see a doctor or dermatologist immediately:
A-symmetry - a mole or mark with one half unlike the other. Common moles are round and symmetrical
B-order irregularities - scalloped or poorly defined edges. Common moles have smooth, even borders.
C-olour variations and inconsistency – tan, brown, black, red, white and blue. Common moles are usually a single shade of brown or black.
Diameter larger than 6 mm
Written by:by Nicola Langengoven
Revive Skin Lounge