Skin cancer (patient information)
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|Skin cancer (patient information)|
Skin cancer On the Web
Editor-in-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S.,M.D.  Associate Editor-In-Chief: Sara Mohsin, M.D. Jinhui Wu, M.D.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types in the United States. And the number of skin cancer cases has been on the rise for the past few decades. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer and melanoma. Other unusual form is Kaposi's sarcoma. Known risk factors invlove sunlight (solar UV radiation) exposure, light-colored skin, hair and eyes, moles, age, family history, etc. Skin cancer can appear on the head, face, neck, hands and arms. The patients may not feel any discomfort during the early period of cancer development. With the development of cancer, skin lesions appear. Skin biopsy is the most important test for the diagnosis. Early diagnosis is very important for the patients' prognosis. So, you should have your doctor check any suspicious skin markings and any changes in the way your skin looks. Treatments can work well when cancer is found early. If not treated, some types of skin cancer cells can spread to other tissues and organs. The preventive measures include skin protection while exposure under sunlight or UV light, self-check of any suspicious skin markings and skin changes. If you find any suspicious sign, go see your dermatologist as soon as possible.
Types of skin cancer
Who is at risk for skin cancer
Clinical data has suggested that the development of melanoma is related to several factors as follows:
- Sunlight: Clinical data shows too much exposure to sunlight(solar UV radiation) is thought to be the biggest risk factor for most skin cancers
- Moles: Although as a benign skin tumor, the mole increases the chance of getting skin cancer, especially for people with many moles
- Genetic factors: Epidemiological data shows that Whites with fair skin, freckles, or red or blond hair have a higher risk of skin cancer than other races
- Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP): Patients with XP are at higher risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, because they can not repair DNA damage caused by sunlight
- Age: Epidemiological data suggests that skin cancer can be found both in older and younger people
Patients with skin cancer have many treatment options. The selection depends on the stage of the tumor. The options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these methods. Before treatment starts, ask your health care team about possible side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities. Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next.
- Surgery: Surgery is the main treatment for most cases of skin cancer. It can often cure early stage skin cancer.
- Radiation therapy: This is a cancer treatment to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing by using high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation. Radiation therapy may be used to treat cancer which has come back and can not be removed by surgery, and distant spread to the brain or the bone.
- Chemotherapy: The treatment is to use drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Usually, chemotherapy is useful in treating cancer that has spread.
Prevention of skin cancer
The best way to lower the risk of skin cancer is to avoid too much exposure to the sun and other sources of UV light. Regular self check is also important.
- Sun protection practices: Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, stay in the shade, wear sunglasses
- Avoid other sources of UV light: Avoidance of tanning beds and sun lamps
- Self-examination and regular check for abnormal moles and have them removed: Regular check for your moles and go to see your dermatologist