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skin cancer

Skin cancer

Skin is the largest organ in the human body and is the most exposed organ as well. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells grow abnormally due to damage or mutation. It is mostly caused when exposed to the harmful UV rays of the sun. However, it can also occur in the part of the skin not exposed to the sun. Based on cell types, skin cancer is categorized into three types:

  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and begins in the basal cells within the skin. They usually develop due to prolonged sun exposure and may appear as waxy bumps or brown lesion.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the outer layers of the skin and can appear as a red nodule. However, it can also develop on parts that aren’t usually exposed to the sun.
  • Melanoma begins in the cells that make up skin tone. It can affect people with any skin tone and can occur anywhere on the body. It may appear as a darker speckle, mole or small lesion.

Symptoms:

In the early stages, skin cancer may not cause any symptom. While skin cancers are visible, they can also be mistaken for other skin conditions. Therefore, one should pay close attention to the following signs:

  • Lesions in skin, such as mole, patch, bump or dark spot.
  • Asymmetry or irregularity in the lesion shape.
  • A mole that changes shape and colour
  • Itching or burning in the lesion

If anyone witnesses any abnormal growth or spot on the skin, they must consult with a dermatologist immediately.

Causes:

Sun exposure causes most skin cancers. The UV rays damage the skin cells, which causes them to grow and form lesions. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause sunburn ad blistering in the skin, which can turn cancerous over time.

Risk factors:

While anyone can develop skin cancer, few factors can increase the risk of cancer development. These factors include:

  • Fair skin, which has less pigment and protection from the UV rays.
  • History of sunburns
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Moles
  • Weak immunity
  • History of skin cancer in the family

Diagnosis:

Skin cancer can be easily diagnosed and only require a physical exam in most cases. Our dermatologists will perform a physical exam to check for suspicious spot or lesion on the skin. If they find any suspicious lesion, they will take a tissue sample for a biopsy and test it for cancerous cells.

Treatment:

Based on cancer’s location, size and type, our doctors will recommend the most viable treatment option for skin cancer. These can include:

  • Cryosurgery, which destroys precancerous cells by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.
  • Excisional surgery to cut off the cancerous tissues along with the surrounding tissues.
  • Mohs surgery to remove cancer with the affected skin layers. The surgeon will remove the cancer layer by layer to save as much skin as possible.
  • Curettage or electrodesiccation to scrap away the cancerous cells using an electric needle.
  • Radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells with high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays. It's mostly used for the remaining tissues which can't be removed during surgery.
  • Chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells with specialized drugs, which are applied directly to the skin. Systemic chemotherapy with an IV can also be used to treat cancers that have spread to other parts of the body.
  • Photodynamic therapy to destroy skin cancer cells that are sensitive to light with a combination of laser light and drugs.
  • Biological therapy, which uses the body's immune system to destroy cancer cells.

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