Overview

Skin cancer is the most often encountered cancer in humans and it can be described as abnormal growth of skin cells. It generally develops in areas that are exposed to the sun. 

There are mainly three types of skin cancer:  

Basal cell carcinoma: It is the most common form of skin cancer (75 %). They’re slow-growing masses. It is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. UV rays can damage the DNA inside your skin cells, causing the unusual cell growth. 

Squamous cell carcinoma: It is the second most common form of skin cancer (20 %). It  develops in the outer layers of your skin, and it’s typically more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma. It may show up as red, scaly lesions on your skin. Squamous cell skin cancer can also develop after long-term exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. It can develop within a burn scar or ulcer, and may also be caused by some types of human papillomavirus (HPV).

Melanoma: It is less common (1-5 %), but it’s the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanoma forms in the melanocytes, the skin cells that create pigment. The cause of melanoma is unclear. Most moles don’t turn into melanomas. They can be caused by UV rays. 

Symptoms of skin cancer

Skin cancers can be in different shapes and behaviour. You should watch the ABCDE of preexisting skin lesions:

  • Asymmetry: The two halves of the lesion or mole aren’t even or identical.
  • Border: The lesions have ragged, uneven edges.
  • Color: The spot has an unusual color, such as white, pink, black, blue, or red.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than one-quarter inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: You can detect that the mole is changing size, color, or shape.
  • Skin lesions: A new mole, unusual growth, bump, sore, scaly patch, or dark spot develops and doesn’t go away.

Diagnosis

If you develop suspicious spots or growths on your skin, or you notice changes in existing spots or growths, make an appointment preferably with a dermatologist. If your doctor suspects it might be cancerous, they may perform a biopsy.The biopsied specimen is sent for histopathological examination. If you’re diagnosed with skin cancer, you may need additional tests to learn how far it has progressed. Your recommended treatment plan will depend on the type and stage of your skin cancer, as well as other factors.

Treatments for skin cancer

The treatment can depend on different factors, like the size, location, type, and stage of your skin cancer. 

  • Cryotherapy: The growth is frozen using liquid nitrogen and the tissue is destroyed. It is less often used because it is not easy to control lesion margins.
  • Excisional surgery: The growth and some of the healthy skin surrounding it are cut out. It is currently the most often preferred method .
  • Mohs surgery: The growth is removed layer by layer, and each layer is examined under a microscope until no abnormal cells are visible.
  • Curettage and electrodessication: A long spoon-shaped blade is used to scrape away the cancer cells, and the remaining cancer cells are burned using an electric needle.
  • Chemotherapy: Drugs are taken orally, applied topically, or injected with a needle or IV line to kill the cancer cells.
  • Photodynamic therapy: A laser light and drugs are used to destroy the cancer cells.
  • Radiation: High-powered energy beams are used to kill the cancer cells.
  • Biological therapy: Biological treatments are used to stimulate your immune system to fight the cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: A cream is applied to your skin to stimulate your immune system to kill the cancer cells.

Ask your doctor for more information about your treatment options.