Skin cancer is at an all-time high across the world, and most people still don't know much about it. Reports show that incidents of melanoma and non-melanoma (two types of skin cancer) have been increasing among people of all ages and residing in various parts of the world over the last few decades. But why is the rate of incidents of skin cancer increasing these days – and most importantly, is it even treatable?
Well, we all know cancer as a disease with no definite cure; all doctors mostly do is manage the symptoms and help the patient hold on for as long as they can. Eradicating cancer from one's body is near impossible in most cases, which is why people dread hearing the word "cancer" in any way. However, the case with skin cancer is a little difficult. While it is still a scary disease that you should be careful of – fortunately, skin cancer is successfully (in most cases) treatable.
So today, let's discuss what skin cancer really is and how it can be treated.
What is Skin Cancer?
Like any other cancer, which is caused by the exponential and uncontrollable growth of skin cells, skin cancer also happens when skin cells grow and multiply uncontrollably and unorderly. Usually, when new cells form, old or damaged cells die on their own. However, when there is a hindrance in this process, cells begin growing rapidly and sometimes result in abnormal cells forming. The collection of cells that forms here can be non-cancerous (also called benign), which means it doesn’t spread or cause any harm. However, in other cases, it can be cancerous, which may spread in nearby tissues and cause damage – especially if not caught early and treated.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
The primary cause of skin cancer is exposure to sunlight for long periods of time. Sunlight has Ultraviolet (UV) rays that can damage the DNA in your skin – overexposure to these rays doesn't only cause blistering and sunburns but also promotes the growth of abnormal cells. These abnormal cells divide and proliferate in a disorganized manner, resulting in forming a mass of cancer cells. Other causes of skin cancer include skin exposure and contact with chemicals, such as coat and tar.
Other than that, some people are more at risk of developing skin cancer than others, such as people who live in sunny and high-altitude locations or use tanning beds. Also, people who have been exposed to UV light therapy for treating skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. Also, people with a suppressed immune system are at more risk.
Types of Skin Cancer
Since skin cancer is directly linked to exposure to sunlight which is why body parts most exposed to the outside are at risk of cancer, such as your arms, face, and neck, but skin goes deep in your skin, it affects the tissues and cells below the top layer of your skin – and this is exactly how the different types of skin cancer are categorized. The three types of skin cancer are based on the layer of cells it affects in your skin.
1. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
A type of non-melanoma skin cancer which occurs in the squamous cells layer under the skin. Squamous cells are flat cells present in the outer region of the epidermis (which is the top layer of the skin). These cells continuously shed when new cells form. Cancer in these cells is called squamous cell carcinoma.
2. Basal Cell Carcinoma
Another type of non-melanoma skin cancer occurs in basal cells. Basal cells lie right under the squamous cells; they divide and multiply and eventually become flat. When flattened, they move up to the epidermis and become squamous cells replacing the dead squamous cells.
The most uncommon type of skin cancer is also the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is likely to spread to other organs if left untreated or caught in the later stages. This type of cancer develops in melanocytes, which are responsible for melanin (brown pigment) formation – this type of cancer can be life-limiting and untreatable if it goes beyond these cells.
Treating Skin Cancer
The biggest question most people have is whether skin cancer is treatable or not – and the answer is yes, it is but as we discussed above, it depends on the type of skin cancer and the stage at which it was diagnosed. In most cases, basal cell and squamous cell cancers are treatable, but it is difficult to successfully treat and remove melanoma from one's body – especially if it has been long and cancer has spread from the skin layer to other organs and tissues.
So far, doctors and researchers have developed various techniques to manage and treat skin cancer – the treatment method used for a person depends on the stage of cancer; the higher the stage, the harder it is to treat it. Here are a few common treatment techniques for skin cancer:
● Mohs Surgery
One of the most effective treatment techniques, the Mohs Surgery, the area (visible) tumor is removed first, after which the surgeon removes a thin layer of skin cancer cells. This layer of cells is examined under a microscope, and additional layers of the tissue are also simultaneously removed. One layer is removed at a time to make sure no cancer cells are visible under a microscope. Mohs surgery is effective because it only removes cancer cells (diseased tissue) and saves surrounding healthy tissues as much as possible.
This therapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze skin cancer – and dead cells separate themselves from healthy tissues (slough off) after the treatment. This treatment is only effective for the skin's top layer, precancerous skin lesions – also known as actinic keratosis, and early stages of cancer.
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment method used for treating any type of cancer – it is also effective for skin cancer (to an extent). Chemotherapy involves the use of medicines to kill cancer cells – in the case of skin cancer, anti-cancer medication is also applied directly to the skin if the disease is limited to the top layer. Otherwise, it is provided to the body through IV or pills. A similar therapy is an immunotherapy which uses your immune system to kill cancer cells.
● Superficial Radiation Therapy
As the name suggests, this treatment method uses radiation (strong beams of energy) to kill cancer cells or stop them from multiplying or growing.
Skin cancer is a dangerous disease, and just like any other cancer must be caught on at early stages. However, the good thing about skin cancer is that it is treatable, and if the diagnosis is made at the right time, you can get rid of cancer from your body very quickly. If you suspect your skin is showing symptoms of skin cancer – or are tiring of finding reliable doctors for treatment methods, contact Suncoat Skin Professionals, who offer board-certified dermatologists and medical professionals who offer skin cancer treatments!
SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Pete / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz, Winter Haven, Largo, Hudson, Leesburg, Riverview, Brooksville, Clearwater, Ocala, Palm Harbor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, Punta Gorda, Seminole, Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.