Skin Cancer: Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Receiving a diagnosis of skin cancer is a nightmare for most patients. After times of uncertainty, you finally know what it is, but for most diagnosed patients, it is just the beginning of more uncertain times. After the diagnosis, you’ll get more and more tests, and, if possible, you’ve to start treatment immediately. Skin cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer in our country. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans get skin cancer by the age of 70. Every year, about 5.4 million people hear the diagnosis of some form of skin cancer, and every hour 2 Americans die from this horrendous disease. This makes it crucial to detect symptoms of skin cancer as soon as possible because the sooner a diagnosis is made and treatment initiated, the greater the chance of getting better.

What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. Skin is made of several layers, the upper or outer layer is called the epidermis, and the lower or inner layer is called the dermis. Skin cancer often occurs in the epidermis, which consists of 3 layers, called squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. There are 3 major types of skin cancer, called basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The first two types are the most common types but are also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancer, as the third type is rarer, but extremely dangerous – especially if it’s left untreated or detected in a late stage. Other less common types of skin cancer are Kaposi sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans and sebaceous gland carcinoma.

Causes & Risk Factors of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is often caused by UV light (over)exposure, this may be due to sunlight or a tanning bed. This form of cancer is mostly seen on sun-exposed body parts, like the face, neck, or legs. Note: this isn’t always the case, skin cancer can also occur between the fingers, toes, genitals, or soles of the feet. Anyone can get skin cancer, but some factors increase the chance. Risk factors are:

  • Having light/fair skin
  • Regular and easy sunburn
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Living near the equator or in high elevations
  • Having (unusual) Moles
  • Having actinic keratosis
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Freckles
  • Blond or red hair and blue eyes
  • Using a tanning bed

Continue reading on the next page, and discover, among others, how you can recognize skin cancer and what you should do next.