May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the reason I chose this health issue is because so many people have misconceptions about this illness, so I wanted to shred some light on the disease. So, in this post I am will attempt to answer the following questions: (1.) What is it? (2.) Who does it affect? (3.) How is it transmitted? (4.) What are the signs and symptoms of the disease? (5.) How is it treated? and (6.) How can it be prevented? Now, let’s begin:
* My source is the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and CDC (www.cdc.gov), which are very reliable sources.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.
There are different types of skin cancer that a person can get, please see below for a list of skin cancers:
- Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer: These cancers are most often found in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms, but they also can occur elsewhere. They are very common but are also usually very treatable.
- Melanoma Skin Cancer: Melanoma is less common than some other types of skin cancer, but it is more likely to grow and spread.
- Merkel Cell Skin Cancer: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare type of skin cancer. It starts when cells in the skin called Merkel cells start to grow out of control. MCC tends to grow quickly and can be hard to treat if it spreads beyond the skin.
- Lymphoma of the Skin: is a cancer that starts in cells that are part of the body’s immune system. Rare lymphomas that start in the skin are called skin lymphomas (or cutaneous lymphomas). Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system. The main types of lymphomas are:
- Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, or Hodgkin’s disease)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL, or sometimes just lymphoma), which includes all skin lymphomas
- Kaposi Sarcoma: Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is a cancer that develops from the cells that line lymph or blood vessels. It usually appears as tumors on the skin or on mucosal surfaces such as inside the mouth, but these tumors can also develop in other parts of the body, such as in the lymph nodes (bean-sized collections of immune cells throughout the body), the lungs, or digestive tract.
Who does Skin Cancer affect?
Everyone’s skin and eyes can be affected by the sun and other forms of ultraviolet (UV) rays. People with light skin are much more likely to have sun damage, but darker-skinned people, including people of any ethnicity, can also be affected.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that’s changing in size, shape, or color.
Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. See below for additional possible signs of skin cancer:
- A sore that does not heal
- Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
- Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
What are the risk factors?
Sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. But UV exposure can raise skin cancer risk even without causing sunburn. Aside from skin tone, other factors can also affect your risk of damage from UV light. You need to be especially careful in the sun if you:
- Had skin cancer before
- Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
- Have many moles, irregular moles, or large moles
- Have freckles and burn before tanning
- Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
- Live or vacation at high altitudes (the strength of UV rays increases the higher up you are)
- Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
- Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
- Spend a lot of time outdoors
- Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus)
- Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome).
- Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
- Have had an organ transplant
- Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
- Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight
How is Skin Cancer Treated?
If a spot is found to be cancer or a pre-cancer, your doctor might want to do more tests or just treat it. If the spot is small and has not spread, a more extensive biopsy (to remove more tissue) or some type of surgery may be all that’s needed. For cancers that might be more widespread (especially melanomas), imaging tests might be done to see if the cancer has spread, and treatment such as immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation might be needed.
If a cancer diagnosis is given, staging provides important information about the extent of cancer in the body and anticipated response to treatment.
How can Skin Cancer be Prevented?
Slip on a shirt.
Slop on sunscreen.
Slap on a hat.
Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and skin around them.
Also, get regular medical checkups. Early detection and treatment can set the stage for a lifetime of better overall health.
*Source- The CDC (www.cdc.gov) and American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org)
For more information you can also visit www.cdc.gov, or www.cancer.org
Please check out my shop page (JAccessories) to purchase Skin Cancer Awareness bracelets – Black colored accessories (paracord bracelet, cord bracelet, or charm bracelet) today. Half of the proceeds from a purchase made will be donated to the American Cancer Society.
Until next time remember that Life Is But A Journey….