Types of Skin Cancer
The two most common forms are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). Both these tumours are related to cumulative sun exposure and most commonly present in an older population with a life-time’s history of sun exposure. With more of us spending an increasing amount of time outdoors and taking holidays in the sun, we are now seeing these tumours in patients in their 20’s and 30’s. Outdoor workers and people with fair complexions are particularly at risk.
Treatment of Skin Cancer
Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) presents as either a skin coloured lump, a scaling lesion, an erosion that will not heal or an ulcerated lesion. Any such lesion requires immediate assessment by a medical practitioner. Dermatologists are specifically trained to diagnose such lesions by looking at them and if there is any doubt by performing a biopsy.
A dermatologist has a number of treatment options available to him which includes the use of special creams to kill the cancer cells, scraping the lesion away to the appropriate depth, cutting the lesion out, freezing the lesion with liquid nitrogen, using photodynamic therapy, carbon dioxide laser or occasionally radiotherapy. The choice of treatment will depend on the tumour type and the personal preference of the patient.
The number of cases of melanoma has increased significantly in recent years. Melanoma is one of the deadliest kind of cancer that affects mainly fair skin people. As it appears on the outside of the body, early detection is very easy and curative measures can, therefore, be applied.
Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment-producing cells and usually appears as pigmented lesions. However, there are melanomas that are not dark in colour and can only be diagnosed on biopsy.
Most melanomas arise from the normal skin surface and some arise from abnormal moles.
Who belongs to the high-risk group for melanoma?
- Very fair skin types ( it can also occur in dark skin, mainly on the palms and soles)
- The family history of melanoma or other skin cancers
- Presence of multiple moles
- Previous melanoma
- Large congenital moles (>2cm) or moles that have changed in shape and size
- Sun exposure
- Poor habits—Smoking, tanning
Any moles that look irregular
The borders look blurred or jagged
C – Colour variation
D – Diameter.
Larger than 6mm
E – Elevation or Evolution.
Any changes that occur over time should be noted and checked. Changes in colour (Darkening, loss of colour, new colours), decrease or increase in size/ thickness, changes in surrounding skin(e.g. redness, white spots, swelling), itchiness, sores, an odd sensation, bleeding moles. Newly appeared moles (in patients >25yrs) also need to be assessed by a specialist.
The dermatologist makes use of special equipment to magnify and look at the texture of each mole. This is called dermoscopy. This provides an assessment of which lesion is suspicious and needs to be removed.