Skin Cancer

Skin cancer diagnosis

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of skin cancer

With the escalating growth of industrialization throughout the world, two major phenomena have been observed. These are global warming and ozone depletion. Both the phenomena are directly impacting the human body. The part of the body that is most affected in both cases is the skin. Inhabitants of tropical, sub-tropical, arid and semi-arid regions who are subjected to extremely hot climatic conditions throughout the year are more prone to skin diseases than people living in other parts of the world. In recent years, the most alarming form of skin disease has been “skin cancer”.

It is necessary to note that skin cancer not only affects adults and aged people, but they are also prevalent among children who are subjected to equally adverse climates. Recent epidemiological studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that further depletion of the ozone layer by about 10% will give rise to 3,00,000 non-melanoma and 4500 melanoma skin cancer cases in the upcoming years.

 

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer carcinomaSkin cancer is the medical condition in which abnormal and proliferative growth of skin cells occurs. In general, there are three main types of skin cells namely- squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. Abnormal growth of melanocytes gives rise to melanoma type skin cancer, while the abnormal growth of basal cells and squamous cells lead to non-melanoma type skin cancer. In the initial stage, the disease is not so severe. But in the more advanced stages of skin cancer, the malignant cells spread to the other parts of the body (metastasis) and may affect the Central Nervous System at the end stage. Usually, skin cancer is manifested through flesh-colored lesions on the epidermis and mucosal layers. The extent of pigmentation varies from one person to another.

 

What causes skin cancer?

The various causes of skin cancer are described below-

  • Exposure to sun rays (particularly the harmful Ultraviolet rays of the sun) for a long time on a regular basis
  • Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays, X-rays or other ionizing radiations during radiotherapy or chemotherapy (for treatment of existing diseases)
  • Frequent use of Ultraviolet lamps, tanning beds or other artificial sources of ultraviolet radiations
  • Exposure to sun rays between 10 AM-2 PM when the intensity of sunrays is strongest
  • Having more than 100 abnormal moles (also called atypical moles) in the body
  • Having blisters or sunburns for a long time
  • Ancestral history of skin cancer (may increase risks of xeroderma pigmentosum)
  • Reduced use of sunscreens and other protective accessories like hats, ultraviolet-sunglasses, full-sleeved aerated clothes and a few more
  • Having blonde hair, fair skin, and freckles
  • Loss of function of melatonin pigments (protects the body from sunburn) due to certain existing diseases
  • Medications like RetinA, sulfa drugs, tetracyclines and diuretics that progressively damage the immune system of the body
  • Activities like surfing, skiing, and swimming that increase exposure of skin to sun-rays reflected from sand, water and snow
  • Having HIV infection or pancreatic cancer
  • History of skin cancer or other skin diseases

 

What are the main warning signs?

Skin cancer diagnosisSkin cancer is mistaken for benign moles in the initial stage. Hence proper knowledge of the following symptoms of skin cancer is necessary-

  • Mild to severe pigmentation
  • The appearance of moles and spots that gradually increase in number with the progress of the disease
  • Inflammation and reddish (or brownish) patches on the skin
  • Irritation and itching of the skin
  • Abnormal growth of existing moles (may turn into malignant tumors)
  • Change in color and texture of moles
  • Spread of cancerous moles and tumors into the deeper layers of the skin (dermis)
  • The appearance of reddish or flesh colored itchy moles that cause irritation and itching
  • Extreme tenderness of the affected skin and moles
  • Burning sensation when the moles are accidentally rubbed or scratched
  • Fever, dizziness, loss of appetite and nausea
  • The appearance of scaly whitish flakes on the skin
  • The appearance of fluid-filled reddish lumps in some cases

 

What are the different types of skin cancer?

Skin cancer is broadly categorized into two types- melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. The following section discusses melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma is the type of skin cancer that originates primarily in the melanocytes and spreads to other parts of the body in the advanced stages. It has two subtypes-

  • Amelanotic melanoma: In this type of skin cancer, the skin cells do not produce melanin pigment. The skin lesions are usually flesh-colored and are therefore not easily identified. They are asymmetric and have an almost invisible pigmented edge.
  • Melanotic melanoma: This type of skin cancer is characterized by the production of melanin by the skin cells. Prominent pigmentation is observed in this case.

Now we shall discuss the non-melanoma type skin cancers. The following categories have been identified so far-

  • Basal cell carcinoma: In this type of cancer the skin lesions appear in the deepest layer of the epidermis. This originates in the basal cells and gradually spreads to other skin cells as well.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer involves the squamous epithelium present in the middle and outer skin layers.

A few other types of skin cancer are discussed below-

  • Merkel cell carcinoma: It is also called neuroendocrine carcinoma and is characterized by bluish-red nodules on the face, neck, and head.
  • Kaposi sarcoma: Here, the malignant cells develop from the linings of lymph nodes and blood vessels.
  • Cutaneous lymphoma: It involves the lymphocytes and can appear anywhere on the skin.

 

What diagnostic tests are necessary?

The following diagnostic tests are normally recommended for the treatment of skin cancers-

  • Blood test (to check levels of lactate dehydrogenase)
  • CT scan (to examine the soft tissues)
  • Chest X-ray (to check for spread of cancer to the lungs)
  • Biopsy (especially lymph node biopsy)

 

Treatment & Prevention

Skin cancer UV raysThe treatment of skin cancers mainly depends on the type and stage of cancer. There are several treatment modalities such as radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, cryosurgery, photodynamic therapy (PDT), and immunotherapy or biologic therapy.

The photodynamic therapy makes use of a kind of laser in order to eliminate the cancer cells and prevent their further proliferation. The biologic therapy helps to boost the immune response of the body to fight cancer. The cryosurgery involves the freezing of the cancerous cells by means of liquid nitrogen.

In some cancers (such as basal cell carcinoma) topical ointments and creams are also prescribed for superficial lesions. The drugs such as imiquimod and fluorouracil are used for the topical application.

Prevention of the cancer is mainly by limiting sun exposure. Various precautions can be observed in order to limit the sun exposure. Some of the precautions are the application of sunscreen before stepping out, wearing protective clothing, use of hats and protective sunglasses etc.  Avoiding intentional UV tanning or indoor tanning by means of tanning beds, sunlamps, tanning booths etc. should also be avoided.

 

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat when you step out in the sun.
  • Wear clothing fully covering your arms and legs to prevent sun exposure.
  • Protect your eyes from the harmful UV radiations by the use of protective sunglasses.
  • Do not forget to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
Don'ts
  • Indulge in indoor tanning. Embrace your natural skin color.
  • Have prolonged sun exposure during late morning through mid-afternoon.
  • Ignore symptoms such as a mole that bleeds, appearance of small lesions with an irregular border, large brownish patches with dark speckles etc. Seek medical attention immediately.

 

 

 

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Colposcopy Colposcopy is a simple, quick and non- invasive diagnostic tool to look closely inside the vulva, vagina, and…
free testosterone test
Free testosterone Free Testosterone Test measures and monitors the level of the free testosterone in the blood. Less than 4%…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
Crossfit with rope
CrossFit: Now get the perfectly sculpted body with this explosive gym routine CrossFit is a fitness regimen that makes use of high-intensity exercises in a shorter period to achieve muscle…
Is it possible to achieve full body detox with Master Cleanse? Master cleanse is a diet consisting of a lemonade based beverage, a salt water drink and a herbal…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
smelling-salts-benefits
The actual science behind smelling salts and how it helps in injury recovery Most smelling salts are a mixture of ammonium carbonate and some perfumes which are sniffed by an individual…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
waterchestnut
Water Chestnuts: The tastiest ways to include this healthy tuber in your diet Water chestnut is not a nut after all. It is a tuber (much like the potatoes) growing close…
dandelion weight loss
Caralluma Fimbriata: How to eat this cactus to lose weight Caralluma fimbriata is a miracle cactus that can be safely consumed by most for losing weight and boosting…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
folate test
Folate test The Folate test measures and monitors the levels of folic acid in the blood. This test is also…
maltodextrin sugar
Maltodextrin: What are the hidden health benefits of this food additive? Maltodextrin is one of the few food additives that has been relatively deemed safe. Many experts now have…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
Miracle extract from the root of maca: 10 ways it can help you! Maca root has been used for years in herbal medicine. Today scientific research is unearthing fresh evidence in…
Lauric Acid: 8 health benefits you can derive from coconuts Appropriate use of saturated fats containing lauric acid can provide you numerous health benefits. This is the main…
kshar sutra
Kshar sutra treatment for piles, fissures and fistula Read to know the benefits and side effects of kshar sutra to treat anal piles, fissures, and fistula…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
Ear pain model
Easy and safe tips for ear wax removal you can do at home Cerumen impaction generally occurs when an external object like cotton swabs are used to remove the ear wax.…
Propolis: Yet another amazing gift by the bees to the humans Bee propolis is yet another generous gift by the bees bestowed on the human race. They utilize substances…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
leptospira Igm test
Leptospira-IgM Test A Leptospira-IgM test is a blood test which is carried out to detect anti-Leptospira IgM antibody. Leptospirosis is…
Hymenoplasty
Hymenoplasty Read on to find out all about hymenoplasty, the procedure, post-surgery care, the risks, and the benefits.
chloride test
Chloride Test A chloride test of the blood checks the level of chloride in body, an important factor governing the…
Rheumatoid Arthritis xray
Arthritis Profile Arthritis profile is a panel of primarily blood tests used to detect the presence of arthritis or check…

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