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Skin Cancer - Overview

Skin cancer is a malignant growth that may affect each and every part of the skin. There are three main types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squam cell carcinoma. The tumor can be easily noticed once it occurs since it affects the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. This is why skin cancer can be easily diagnosed on time in early stages and treated successfully. However, many people tend not to consult their doctors about newly formed skin changes and neglect the presence of the tumor. This allows tumor cells to continue multiplying and carries additional risk of the spread of the tumor to nearby lymph nodes or even to distant organs.

Morbidity and mortality of skin cancer depend on the actual type of the cancer and stage of the disease. The most malignant skin cancer is malignant melanoma, while basal cell carcinoma is not so aggressive. Squam cell carcinoma is more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma and is considered serious type of cancer.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

There are a few causes which are definitely related to the occurrence of skin cancer and some additional causes are believed to be in some sort of relation ship with skin cancer. The most significant and definitely proven cause of skin cancer is exposure to harmful sunlight and its UV rays. People who expose their skin to sunlight for many years eventually develop one type of skin cancer. Direct exposure to sunlight is equally damaging as usage of tanning beds. So people who think they are not at risk for skin cancer since they improve their tan only by using tanning beds are wrong. Several studies have pointed to connection between skin cancer and tanning beds.

Furthermore, this cancer is more frequent among people whose immune system does not function properly, i.e. is suppressed either due to certain illnesses or some medications.

Exposure to chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and arsenic is also a potential risk factor for skin cancer. The increased risk is confirmed in people suffering from genetic anomalies such as xeroderma pigmentosum and albinism. Apart from that the risk for skin cancer is increased in people with fair complexion, white or red hair and green or blue eyes. The risk also increases if a person has suffered from sunburns during childhood. In some cases skin cancer runs in families. And finally, people who have already been diagnosed with skin cancer and treated are at higher risk of developing additional skin cancer.

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