Dr Gaurav Goel, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre, Jaipur
Cancer is a serious disease that occurs when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the body. There are many types of cancer, and it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. Skin cancer is a prevalent ailment that affects millions of people worldwide. It is an abnormal growth of cells that begins to develop on the skin’s surface, usually from exposure to ultraviolet radiation. There are several skin cancer types, each with its peculiar attributes and treatment options. Below are the most typical forms of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), which accounts for about 80% of all cases, develops on areas of the skin exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and hands. BCC grows slowly but can be locally invasive, damaging the surrounding tissue. The most common type of BCC is a raised, pearly, or shiny bump that may have tiny blood vessels on the surface. It may also appear as a flat, scaly, or reddish patch on the skin. The tumor may become more extensive if left untreated, causing disfigurement or other complications. The treatment of BCC typically requires the surgical removal of the tumor and a small margin of surrounding tissue. Other forms of treatment may include radiation therapy, topical medications, or cryotherapy, which entails freezing the tumor with liquid nitrogen.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It accounts for 20% of all cases and is more likely to increase than BCC. SCC develops in skin areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, and hands. The most frequent symptom of SCC is a firm, red bump or a scaly patch on the skin that may bleed or crust over. It may also appear as a wart–like growth or an open sore that does not heal. Treatment for SCC generally involves surgical removal of the tumor and the surrounding tissue margin. Other treatment options may include radiation therapy, topical medications, or photodynamic therapy, which utilizes light to activate a photosensitizing agent that destroys cancer cells.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, accounting for about 1% of all cases. It can grow anywhere on the skin, including areas not exposed to the sun. Melanoma spreads quickly to other body parts and can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated promptly. The most common symptom of melanoma is a new or changing mole or dark spot on the skin. It may be asymmetrical, have irregular borders, be multi–coloured, or have a diameter larger than a pencil
eraser. Treatment of melanoma usually involves surgical removal of the tumor and the surrounding tissue margin. Other treatment options may include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Prevention and Early Detection of Skin Cancer
Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays is the best way to prevent skin cancer. This can be done by wearing protective clothing, such as long–sleeved shirts and hats, and using a broad–spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. Furthermore, avoiding tanning beds and seeking shade during peak sun hours is also essential. Wearing sunglasses that block both UV-B and UV-A rays to protect your eyes and using a lip balm with sunscreen is also an excellent way to protect different areas of skin.
Early detection is also crucial for the successful treatment of skin cancer. One should perform regular self – examinations of your skin and report any changes to your doctor. It is recommended to have routine skin cancer screenings, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer or have previously had skin cancer. Thus, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that skin cancer is a severe condition with life–altering consequences if not detected and treated early. Understanding the different types of skin cancer is vital in recognizing the signs and seeking appropriate treatment. Remember to prioritize your skin health and consult if you notice any concerning changes in your skin.