What are the different types of skin cancer?

Of all the cancers, it is the skin cancer which affects most people around the world. In the US alone, over a million people are detected with skin cancer.
As, skin cancer clinic in Melbourne, the human body contains more than 35 trillions of cells. And if any of these few normal functioning cells undergo variations and modifications, and grow uncontrollably, then cancer occurs in a person. The multiplication of cells forms into a mass which in medical term is called a tumor. Not all tumors are cancerous, some are benign too; i.e. they do not cause any damage. But some tumors are malignant and cancerous, which means that they occupy and annex the neighboring tissues, largely lymph nodes, on account of their out of control growth.

These malignant tumors after invading the neighboring tissues survive on them by taking up their oxygen and nutrients. Not just the surrounding tissues, but these malignant tumors also enter the bloodstream and affect remote organs. This process is called metastasis

Skin Cancers are of three types:

a) SCC – Squamous Cell Carcinoma
b) BCC – Basal Cell Carcinoma
c) Melanoma

1) Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Of the three skin cancers, this is the second most common. The chief cause for this is the ultraviolet rays from the sun and artificial tanning by tanning beds. It affects the exposed part of one’s body — such as hands, legs, face, neck, back, chest etc.
This skin cancer if detected early this type of cancer can be treated completely. But if it spreads to other parts, such as bones, lymph nodes or other tissues, then it becomes difficult to cure. Squamous Cell Carcinoma grows has a very slow growth and is generally detected at a much earlier stage.

You have high chances of being affected by SCC if you have a fair skin, you get exposed a lot to sun’s ultraviolet rays, or expose your body to excessive tanning bulbs, or use tanning beds. Also, it affects population which are older, fair skinned, have blue or green eyes, work in places of high radiation — such as nuclear plants, radioactive laboratories, or live in an area where the water has high levels of arsenic.

Squamous cell carcinoma generally looks like a bump or maybe red in color with a scaly blotch of skin. Its texture is rough and blood oozes out when scraped with a fingernail or a pointed surface. If it is enlarged, it causes excessive itching. If you observe any such conditions on your skin, it is time to consult a dermatologist.

The treatment usually involves removing the spot of cancer along with some healthy skin, or by killing the cancer cells on the localized part of the body using a hand tool, or by undergoing a surgery to remove the lymph node, or scrubbing the spot on your body so that new skin layer could emerge.

2) Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the least risky of all the cancers. The magic words are ‘early detection’ to get completely cured. The best part is that it does not spread to other areas of the skin, but may enter under your skin affecting tissues and bones.
It starts off with a bump that is shiny and small, generally on the face but could affect other areas of your body too — such as legs, arms shoulders etc. Your propensity to develop this type of cancer rises if you have fair skin. BCC grows very slowly and is not detected unless there is a very long and harsh exposure to the sun.
It is caused by overexposure to the sun, experiencing severe sunburns when growing up, using excessive sunscreen lotions and using tanning beds.
Your dermatologist may suggest creams and pills and would have you undergo regular check-ups to monitor progress. Or he might suggest a minor excision surgery or a freeze surgery, wherein the part of the bumpy skin is frozen to kill the cancer cells. This is known as cryosurgery.
The other treatment is using electricity to kill the cancer cells with a spoon like instruments.
Besides this, your doctor may use X-Rays to destroy the cancerous cells. Thus, it is only in consultation with a well-known dermatologist, that you’d know which method of treatment is good for you.

3) Melanoma
This is the most dangerous of all the types of skin cancer and affects more than 10,000 every year in the US alone. It is caused by a damaged DNA affecting the nearby skin because of overexposure to ultraviolet rays and blisters caused by sunburn, If in your childhood you have been affected by sunburns, then you double your chances of contracting melanoma.
The formation of tumors have their genesis in melanocytes, which produces pigment, and is located in the bottom layer of the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.
A large majority of melanomas are found to be of black and brown in color, however, they can also take up the color of the skin of the person it affects — such as red, pink, purple or white.

There are 4 types of melanoma :
a) Superficial spreading melanoma
b) Lentigo meligna
c) Acral lentiginous melanoma
d) Nodular melanoma

The treatment of melanoma, as with other types of skin cancer can be done using excision surgery or Moh’s Micrographic surgery, in which many layers of the affected part are removed and each is studied under a microscope.

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