The skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin covers the internal organs and protects them from injury. It serves as a barrier between germs, such as bacteria, and internal organs; and prevents the loss of too much fluid. The skin controls the body temperature and helps get rid of some wastes. There are certain cells in the skin that communicate with the brain enabling temperature, touch, and pain sensations
Skin cancer is the most common form of any human cancer. It is estimated that over 1 million new cases of skin cancer occur annually. The annual rates of all forms of skin cancer are increasing each year, representing a growing public concern. It has also been estimated that nearly half of all Americans who live to age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once in their lifetime. The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal.
There are three types of skin cancer which can have different appearances and symptoms. Basal skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for 75 per cent of non-melanoma skin cancers. Basal skin cancer affects a type of cell within the top layer of skin, and is a slow-growing cancer that doesn’t usually spread to other parts of the body.
Squamous cell skin cancer involves another type of cell in the top layer of skin or epidermis. It usually affects the head, neck or back of the hands and the main symptom is an area of thickened, scaly skin that develops into a painless, hard lump, reddish brown in colour with an irregular edge. The lump becomes a recurring ulcer and doesn’t heal. Occasionally squamous cell skin cancer will form on the vulva or around the anus.
Melanoma skin cancer begins in the melanocytes, cells that produce the skin coloring or pigment known as melanin. Melanin helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Melanoma skin cancer is almost always curable when it is detected in its very early stages. Although melanoma accounts for only a small percentage of skin cancer, it is far more dangerous than other types skin cancer and can cause deaths. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 75,000 cases of skin cancer in 2012. It accounts for almost 9,000 of the nearly 12,000 skin cancer deaths each year.
Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms include:
- A small lump (spot or mole) that is shiny, waxy, pale in color, and smooth in texture.
- A red lump (spot or mole) that is firm
- A sore or spot that bleeds or become crusty. Also look for sores that don’t heal.
- Rough and scaly patches on the skin.
- Flat scaly areas of the skin that are red or brown.
- Any new growth that is suspicious
Everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer. However, certain characteristics make people more at risk for developing skin cancer:
- People with freckles
- Those with fair skin tones
- Those who burn easily
- People with light colored eyes, such as green and blue eyes
- People with naturally red or blonde hair
- People who spend a lot of time outdoors
- People who have a personal or family history of skin cancer or melanoma
Treatment for skin cancer, much like any form of cancer, may require surgery to remove the cancerous growths. A plastic surgeon can surgically remove the cancerous growths and other skin lesions using specialized techniques to preserve your health and your appearance. Although scars tend to develop after surgery, your plastic surgeon will make every effort to treat your skin cancer without dramatically changing your appearance. For some people, reconstruction may require more than one procedure to achieve the best results.