Skin cancers are the most common type of cancer. These abnormal growths of skin cells usually develop if the skin gets too much sun exposure. However, it can sometimes occur even on the parts of the body that are normally hidden from the sunrays.
Types of skin cancers
There are three different types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type that rarely metastases or kills a patient. However, it causes severe destruction of healthy cells, and it is considered malignant as it invades the surrounding tissues. Approximately, 3 to 10 percent of Caucasians may develop this kind of cancer during their lifetime. They are usually found on the head and neck.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer that occurs in different parts of the body, such as skin, lips, mouth, esophagus, urinary bladder, prostate, lungs, vagina and cervix. These can be in situ, confined to the original site, or invasive. Only invasive cancers can spread to other organs and cause metastasis.
Melanoma is the most severe but less common type of skin cancer. It is a malignant tumor of melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the dark pigment melanin, responsible for the color of the skin. Melanoma can affect any part of the body that contains melanocytes, including the bowel and the eye. It is estimated that 75% of deaths related to skin cancer occur because of the melanoma.
Causes of skin cancer
As any other type of cancer, skin cancer occurs as a result of mutations in the DNA of healthy skin cells. The affected skin cells grow out of control and form a massive cancerous tissue. The cancer usually begins at the top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. This layer of the skin suffers the greatest environmental stress as it is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight and in commercial tanning lamps and tanning beds. Other factors, such as exposure to toxic substances can also contribute to cell mutations.
Prevention of skin cancer
Skin cancer is preventable. There are a couple of simple prevention tips for everyone to follow. The most important thing is to avoid the sun during the middle of the day. Outdoor activities should always be scheduled for other times of the day, even during the winter or when the sky is cloudy. Everyone should wear sunscreen during the whole year. The sun protection factor should be at least 15. It is recommended to wear protective clothing and by all means avoid tanning beds. Last but not least, everyone should check the skin regularly and report any change to the doctor.