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Egan defines cancer as a condition in which errors occur in the DNA and there is an uncontrollable reproduction of a particular cell type in the body, even the body does not require extra cells. According to A.D.A.M., skin cancer, also called skin neoplasia, refers to the uncontrolled growth of strange skin cells, which if left unchecked, can extend from the skin into other organs and tissues (para1). As the cells reproduce, they form a tumor. Skin tumors are often known as to as lesions. Tumors become cancerous if they are malignant, which means that owing to their unrestrained growth, they intrude on and invade neighboring tissues. They may also get to the body's remote organs through the lymphatic system or the bloodstream. Metastasis is a term that refers to the process of invading and spreading to other body organs. Tumors invade the surrounding tissues and overwhelm them by taking their space as well as the nutrients and oxygen that they require to function as well as survive (Emedicinehealth.com, 1).
Rockoff records that skin cancer is the commonest form of human cancer and that it is estimated that every year, more than one million new cases arise. He also asserts that each year, the rates of all skin cancer forms are mounting, which has raised an increasing public concern. Estimates also have it that of all Americans who live to age 65, almost half will get skin cancer no less than once.
The classification of skin cancers depends on the types of epidermal cells involved. Different skin cancer types include melanoma, which takes place in the cells that produce pigment/melanocytes. This type of cancer is not so common but the most dangerous since it has a tendency of quickly metastasizing/spreading all over the body. It is the primary cause of skin disease death. There is also basal cell carcinoma/basal cell carcinoma epithelioma, which develops when there is abnormal growth of the cells in epidermis' lowest layer as well as squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs as a result of changes in the squamous cells, which are found in the epidermis' middle layer (A.D.A.M., para4). The first phase of squamous cell carcinoma is known as actinic keratosis (Rockoff, 1). The last two cancer types are the most common cancer forms and they are both known as nonmelanoma skin cancer (1). Other nonmelanoma skin cancers include cutaneous lymphoma, merkel cell carcinoma, and kaposi's sarcoma (A.D.A.M., para4).
According to the American Cancer Society, most cases of nonmelanoma skin cancers grow on areas of the body that are mostly exposed to the sun, including the backs of the hands, ear, face neck and lips. Additionally, they can be slow or fast growing depending on the type. However, they hardly ever spread to other body parts. These forms of cancer are very likely to be healed if identified and treated early.
Risk factors of Skin Cancer
Some of the recognized risk factors for skin cancer include exposure to the sun and sunburn - as earlier noted, skin areas that are frequently exposed to ultraviolet radiation or sunlight are more prone to skin cancer. This is deemed all skin cancers' primary cause. Others include genetics (having a family history of melanoma); light-colored skin, eyes and hair (fair complexion); atypical/multiple moles; occupational exposures to radium, pitch, coal tar, arsenic compounds or creosote; as well as age - nonmelanoma skin cancers are common mostly past the age of forty (A.D.A.M., para5 & American Cancer Society, para10).
Emedicinehealth.com also points other risk factors to include use of tanning booths as well as the immune system's immunosuppression-impairment, which may be brought about by medications prescribed to prevent organ transplant rejection or fight autoimmune diseases or can be due to other diseases. Individuals who have numerous, unusual or large moles present at birth, those with certain genetic disorders such as pigmentosum, xeroderma and albinism that deplete skin pigment , and those who experienced severe sunburn early in life are also at a greater risk of developing skin cancer (2). It is however important to note that apart from people with the above risk factors, any person, including healthy people, those with dark eyes, hair and skin, as well as the young can develop skin cancer.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Some of the symptoms of skin cancer include skin changes, particularly in the color or size of a mole, a new growth, or other darkly pigmented spot or growth; pigmentation spread further than its border e.g. dark coloring, extending past a mark or a mole's edge; bleeding, scaliness, oozing or change in a nodule or bump's appearance. A change in, tenderness, itchiness, sensation, or pain may also be a symptom of cancer (American Cancer Society, para11). A.D.A.M gives other features that one should look out for include any skin growth that will not heal or that bleeds, irregular borders, one half of the abnormal skin area differs from the other half (Asymmetry), and diameter commonly greater than six mm. The color may also change from one area to the other with black, brown or tan shades. At times, the shades may be blue, red or white in color (Para7).
Treatment of Skin Cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma treatment is simple - in most cases, the lesion is removed surgically. Nevertheless, malignant melanoma may call for various methods of treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Owing to treatment decisions' complexity, malignant melanoma patients may profit from the collective expertise of an oncologist, a cancer surgeon and a dermatologist (Emedicinehealth.com, 6).
Prognosis/Expectations of Skin Cancer
The outlook hinges on various factors such as the cancer type as well as how fast was its diagnosis. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma seldom spread to other body parts. Melanoma is however more probable to spread to other body parts (A.D.A.M., para10).
Prevention of Skin Cancer
According to Egan, the best way to prevent the various skin cancer types is minimizing sun exposure especially during times of the day when sunrays are most intense. One should always protect his or her skin from direct sunrays by using a sunscreen, putting on such protective clothing as pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats, long skirts, among others.
The skin is indubitably a very important organ of the body and should be protected at all times. Taking an active role through monitoring sun exposure as well as examining one's body looking out for suggestive lesions and moles on the body could bring all the difference as far as skin cancer is concerned. One should report anything that appears suspicious or any abnormal features on the skin to a physician, who could assist in early diagnosis of cancer and thereby treating it in its early stages.