Header Graphic

Different Types Of Skin Cancer

Since our skin is always exposed, we may not realize it but we put serious risk every time we are under the sun. Skin cancer is chronic inflammation of the skin, and is caused by three major risk factors: excessive sun damage, usually early in life; non-healing wounds which are called Marjolin’s ulcers and genetics. When we see that our skin changes color after sun exposure, this is called tanning, and it is the body’s way of responding to the ultraviolet rays although it does not protect us from skin cancer. Skin cancer generally takes a very long time to develop; although we may not feel it now, the effects can be felt in about 20 years.

Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer comes in different forms, some more common than others. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both which are categorized as nonmelanoma skin cancer. The basal and squamous cells are found in the skin’s outer layers, and cover the body’s internal and external surfaces.

Basal cell carcinoma is caused by heredity and exposure to ultraviolet rays and chemicals such as arsenic. Treatment can be done through topical chemotherapy, surgery, x-ray, photodynamic therapy and cryosurgery. This type of skin cancer is not fatal although if no medical attention is given immediately, can cause disfiguration and bleeding. Basal cell carcinoma looks like smooth, shiny bumps on the skin in areas that are touched by the sun’s rays including the head, shoulders, or neck; in the center of it crusts can occur as well as bleeding. In some cases, blood vessels can be seen.

Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the body’s organs, including mouth, lips, skin, prostate, esophagus, lungs, cervix and vagina. Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma are scaly and red skin that turns into sores; bleeding and ulceration can also occur. Smoking is considered to be a big cause of this type of skin cancer, and other causes aside from sun exposure include carcinogens, heredity, and other pre-malignant lesions.

Other types of skin cancers would look like dark patches or lesions, brown or black in color. A mole that changes in color, size, or shape can be an indication of melanoma skin cancer.

Avoiding Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can be avoided by changing one’s lifestyle. Parents should be warned as skin cancer develops when there is too much sun exposure during early years of childhood. Practices to avoid skin cancer are wearing of long sleeved clothing and hats to prevent sun damage; wear strong sun block of at least SPF50; avoid exposure of the sun especially until the point it causes sun burns; and reapply sun block every 2 hours after swimming.

 Dr Sandra Goodman's new book: Nutrition and Cancer, State-of-the-Art