Skin (Skin) Cancer: What is it, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Contrary to popular belief, skin cancer is a common type of cancer. Studies have proven that almost one in five people develop skin cancer at some point in their lives (1). In addition, it is possible to completely treat the disease if it is diagnosed early. Commonly used treatment methods include excision, cryotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation and Mohs surgery. Appropriate treatment methods can be used depending on the type or progression of the disease. It may also be possible to use a combination of several treatment methods. Since early diagnosis allows complete treatment of the disease, it is important to take into account any changes in the skin. To avoid skin cancer, it is important to be examined by a dermatologist at least once a year.
What is Skin Cancer?
Cancer is a type of disease that causes uncontrolled growth and proliferation of cells in tissues or organs. It is often named according to the name of the tissue or organ in which it occurs. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells grow or multiply uncontrollably. In a healthy human body, a new one is formed to replace a dead or aging skin cell. This cycle may be disrupted for any reason. As a result of the disruption in the cycle, new cell production may occur before healthy cells are destroyed. This also leads to cancer.
The most common cause of skin cancer is exposure to more ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun than necessary. For this reason, it is recommended to take precautions when going out, especially in the summer months when the sun is shining. Otherwise, the skin may be exposed directly to UV rays. In this case, the structure of the skin cells is disrupted and cancer may occur.
Skin cancer occurs more frequently in areas of the body that are most exposed to sunlight. The main areas of these areas are face, ears, neck, lips, arms, chest, upper back, legs and hands. However, areas such as between the toes, genitals, soles of the feet, etc., are much less exposed to the sun. There is a possibility of skin cancer occurring in areas such as:
What Causes Skin Cancer?
The main cause of skin cancer is burns caused by excessive exposure to the sun. In particular, burning the body to the point of creating blisters is a risky situation for skin cancer. UV rays from the sun can damage the DNA of skin cells. Cells with damaged DNA; becomes abnormal, grows and multiplies faster than it should. This situation causes cancer in the area.
Other known causes of skin cancer include frequent contact with certain substances such as tar and coal. There are also some conditions that increase the risk of skin cancer. These can be listed as follows:
- Living in sunny or high altitudes,
- Using the solarium device frequently to tan,
- Having light-colored eyes, light-colored or freckled skin,
- Having a family history of skin cancer,
- Having had an organ transplant before,
- Having diseases that weaken the immune system or using drugs that suppress the immune system,
- Exposure to UV rays used in the treatment of skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema (1).
Types of Skin Cancer
Some of the most common types of skin cancer include melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. However, less common types also exist. These are called Kaposi sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and sebaceous gland carcinoma (2).
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that causes lesions or bumps to form on the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). It is possible to see these lesions and bumps in the areas of the skin that are most exposed to the sun. It is possible to be treated with early diagnosis.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can occur due to the overproduction of squamous cells found in the epidermis. Exposure to too much UV rays increases the risk of the disease.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If left untreated, it can lead to the risk of death. However, early diagnosis can ensure complete treatment. The probability of being seen in people with fair skin, blond or red hair, and light eye color is higher than other individuals.
This very rare type of skin cancer develops in the blood vessels in the skin and causes red or purple patches.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer causes hard, shiny nodules that form in hair follicles on or just under the skin. It is frequently seen on the neck, head and trunk.
Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer, which originates from oil glands in the skin, is rare and aggressive. It commonly occurs on the eyelids and causes painless, firm nodules.
What are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
There are many types of skin cancer, and the symptoms of the disease vary depending on these types. Among the most common symptoms of the type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma;
- Formation of wax-like bumps on the skin,
- Formation of flat, skin-colored or brown scar-like lesions,
- It causes crusty wounds that heal but bleed again.
The type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma; It is commonly seen on the face, hands and ears. The most common symptoms of this type are as follows:
- A red, hard nodule
- Flat lesions that may have both a crusty and scaly surface.
The symptoms of the type of skin cancer called melanoma have a different course. Some of these symptoms include:
- Spot or spots, mostly dark-spotted, large or coarse, almost brown in color,
- Bleeding lump-shaped wounds,
- Lesions that cause itching, burning or pain,
- Dark lesions occurring on mucous membranes in any part of the body (2).
Skin Cancer Diagnosis Methods
It is important to be examined by a dermatologist to diagnose skin cancer. The examination begins by determining whether there is an increase or growth in the freckles, moles or other spots on the body. The dermatologist can then examine the entire body, including the scalp and genitals. If there is a suspicious lesion on the skin, a biopsy may be required. If there is evidence of skin cancer in the tissue sample taken, the most appropriate treatment method can be determined.
Skin Cancer Treatment
The course of treatment varies depending on the stage of the disease. Stages of skin cancer are graded from 0 to 4. The higher the grade, the more the cancer has spread. In case of early diagnosis, since cancer tissue is found in a very limited area, even a biopsy may allow removal of the entire cancerous cell. However, it is possible to use different treatment methods at advanced levels.
It is a treatment method that involves freezing the cancerous structure caused by skin cancer by exposing it to very low temperatures and then removing it from the body. Argon gas or liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the cancerous structure.
The purpose of this surgery is to completely remove the cancerous cell from the body. To be sure of this, some healthy tissue around the cancerous area is also removed.
In this surgery method, cancerous tissue is cut layer by layer and removed from the body. After each layer is cut, the tissue is examined and the cutting process continues until there is no cancerous tissue left. The advantage of this surgery method is that minimal damage is caused to healthy tissues. It is a treatment method used especially for cosmetically important and visible areas.
Apart from these common treatments, curettage and electrodessication therapy can be applied in the treatment of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy may be used in the treatment of advanced skin cancer that has spread to many parts of the body.
You can protect yourself from the sun’s dangerous rays and sunburn to prevent skin cancer. In a negative situation, you can be examined without wasting time to regain your health with early diagnosis and treatment methods.