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. This type of 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 this diagnosis, 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 a type of cancer where abnormal skin cell growth occurs. The skin is composed of two main layers, namely the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, which is the outer layer of the skin, contains three main types of cells, including squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. It typically arises in the epidermis and can be classified into three major types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Although basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types, melanoma is the deadliest. Early detection is critical for successful treatment, and it’s important to get regular skin checks by a dermatologist. Other less common types include 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 this form of 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
- 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.