The general warning
signs of skin cancer include:
any changes in size,
colour, shape, or texture of any skin growth.
an open or inflamed skin
wound that won't heal.
Melanoma, the most
dangerous type of skin cancer, may appear as:
a change in an existing
a small, dark,
multicoloured spot with jagged borders (either elevated or flat) that may bleed and form a
a clump of shiny, firm,
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
may appear on sun-exposed skin as:
a flesh-coloured oval
lump which may develop into a ulcer that bleeds.
a smooth red spot pierced
in the centre.
a reddish, brown, or
bluish black patch of skin on the chest or back.
Squamous cell carcinoma
(SCC) may appear on sun-exposed skin as:
a firm, red, bump that
a flat spot that
becomes a bleeding sore that won't heal
This is a disease of the
outer skin layer called the epidermis. Skin is very complex part of our systems.
There are two main parts to
the skin. The outer layer
The epidermis - which consists of several layers of cells
and the lowest parts. It is at this point that the cells divide and move their way up to
the surface. Once at the surface, the cells will flatten and die. They consist of keratin.
The whole process takes nearly four weeks. Throughout the epidermis are melanocytes, which
are cells that produce a protective pigment called melanin.
Skin cancers fall into two
major categories: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is cancer of melanocytes and is the
cancer of the skin which is most feared. It can start in a mole or birthmark, or in normal
skin. Melanoma usually appears first on the torso, although it can occur on the palm of
the hand; on the sole of the foot; under a fingernail or toenail; in the mucous linings of
the mouth, vagina, or anus; and even in the eye. Melanoma is dangerous and often fatal. It
can be seen and detected quite easily and readily cured. But this cancer can also spread
beyond the skin to other areas and this is where the difficulty lies in treating and
curing the disease.
The two most common skin
cancers, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), are non-melanomas,
and are not usually fatal. They progress slowly, and stay localised on the skin, are
detected easily, and are usually curable. BCC grows the slowest while SCC is somewhat more
aggressive and more inclined to spread.
Some non-cancerous skin
growths can eventually become cancerous.
One positive characteristic
of skin cancer is that because it is based on the skin - the outside covering - it is
easily visible and detectable early on in the stages. If it is detected and treated early,
it will normally be cured.
Skin cancer is the most
common cancer in the world. Most cases are cured, but the problem is that it can affect so
many people. People with celtic colouring - red hair, blue eyes and fair skin - are the
highest risk group. It is most common in Australia.
Skin cancer is caused by
too much sun exposure. Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) rays that can alter the genetic
material in skin cells, causing mutations.
Also things to avoid to
much exposure to are sunlamps, tanning booths, and x-rays. As these instruments can also
damage skin and cause cancerous growths.
BCC and SCC have been
linked to chronic sun exposure.
Melanoma is linked to
excessive sunbathing that causes your skin to be scorched and blistered. It is reported
that one blistering sunburn episode during childhood can double a person's risk for
developing melanoma later in life.
The people most vulnerable
to melanoma are -
people with pigment
people with many freckles
Workers exposed to
substances such as coal tar, radium, insecticides and other carcinogens.
Without a doubt, exposure
to ultraviolet radiation is the most common cause of skin cancer as the main way of
preventing this disease is by limiting skin's exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Hereditary may play a part in whether or not you eventually succumb to the disease.
It is important that you
perform self examinations regularly - looking at every inch of your body, if you do not
know what to look for, go to your doctor who can explain the different skin cancers can
look. If you find a growth, have it examined by your doctor or dermatologist immediately.
All potentially cancerous
skin growths must be confirmed by a cancer diagnosis. Always go to your doctor to have
them checked out. They should never be removed by shaving, burning, or freezing because
those techniques do not allow pathologic examination of the growth.
Fortunately, most skin
cancers are detected and cured before they spread. Melanoma that has spread to other
organs poses the greatest problem.
Standard treatments for
localised basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are safe and effective and cause very
few side effects. Small tumours can also be removed.
In some cases where BCC or
SCC has begun to spread beyond the skin, tumours are removed surgically and patients are
treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy. Although it is usually rare for
the cancers to spread beyond the localised site.
Melanoma tumours must be
removed surgically as soon as they are detected. Neither radiation nor chemotherapy will
cure advanced melanoma, but either treatment may slow the disease and relieve symptoms.
If you have had skin cancer
previously, you are more at risk of getting it again. Anyone who has been treated for skin
cancer of any kind should have regular checkups. (See the entry on Cancer for more
Once skin cancer is
diagnosed, the only acceptable treatment is medical care. However, alternative treatments
may be useful in preventing the disease and also in helping the body cope with the side
effects from the conventional treatments.
Nutrition And Diet
- It is generally agreed that
zinc and the
A (beta carotene), C, and
help repair damaged body tissue and promote healthy skin.
- African sausage tree (Kigelia pinnata) to treat skin cancer. There needs
to be more conclusive research performed on this herb.African sausage tree
(Kigelia pinnata) to treat skin cancer. There needs
to be more conclusive research performed on this herb.
if you are at risk of
getting skin cancer, it is wise to try to prevent its occurrence by following these
Avoid the hottest part of
the day - around lunchtime - 11am to 2 pm.
Wear clothes that cover
your exposed body parts and strong uv protection cream.
Use a sun screen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher whenever you are outside.
Consider taking a
Do regular self
examinations and report any suspicious looking marks or skin lesions to a doctor at once
When to seek further